For more than a decade, new vehicles built outside North America have accounted for a steadily rising share of U.S. sales. But that trend has been sharply reversed this year.
Through August, vehicles built in the United States, Canada and Mexico represented 77 percent of U.S. sales, up from 73 percent in the same period a year earlier. In 1998, 87 percent of vehicles sold here were built in North America.
It's not just a matter of a Detroit 3 resurgence, although the domestics gained 1.1 share points in the first eight months. These factors account for most of the change:
-- Sales of light trucks this year have risen more than sales of cars, which are more likely to be produced abroad.
-- The yen's rise against the dollar has discouraged Japanese exports. Through August, U.S. sales of Japan-built vehicles dropped 2.6 percentage points to 11.9 percent.
-- Hyundai and Kia have added U.S. assembly plants. With both plants fully up and running, the U.S. share of Korea-built units fell 1.2 points to 4.9 percent.