TRAVERSE CITY, Mich.—North American vehicle output will continue rising over the next two years as non-Detroit 3 auto makers localize more production, a chief industry forecaster says.
New North American factory lines are under construction for the Lexus, Honda, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Infiniti brands. Other additions are likely to come from Hyundai, Kia and Volkswagen, predicts Mike Jackson, director of North American vehicle production forecasts for IHS Automotive.
“Localization is going to be the driving force for North American volume levels,” said Jackson, while attending the Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City.
Meanwhile, the industry posted healthy U.S. sales gains for July.
With a 5 percent increase, Ford Motor more than doubled the pace of its first-half advance. American Honda and General Motors had their biggest jumps since January. Nissan set July records for the company and its namesake brand. Fiat Chrysler extended its streak of monthly sales gains to 64.
The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate jumped to 17.55 million—the second-highest tally in a decade. The SAAR has now topped 17 million in four out of seven months this year.
“The second half of 2015 is off to a great start, with industry sales above expectations,” said Kurt McNeil, GM's U.S. vice president of sales operations.
Jackson forecasts that North American production will reach a record level in 2015 of 17.5 million light vehicles, topping the previous high-water production mark in 2000 of 17.2 million. But he predicts that production will continue rising to 19 million in 2020.
“North America is becoming a global export base,” he says. “Audi's Q5 will go into production in Mexico for export around the world. That's a new approach to building vehicles here, and it translates to bigger volumes over time.”