#NationOfBuilders Hearing Highlights Growth in North American Auto Manufacturing

April 10, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – The Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), today held its third installment of the hearing series on Our Nation of Builders, this time engaging in a review of auto manufacturing in the United States.

“Today we are focusing on the U.S. automotive manufacturing sector - a sector that supports more jobs than any other manufacturing industry - employing almost 8 million Americans across all 50 states,” stated Chairman Terry.

The auto manufacturing industry successfully emerged from the recession and is now experiencing dramatic growth in terms of sales, productivity, employment, and capacity utilization. Leaders in the auto industry testified today about these recent successes and described the wide range of challenges and opportunities currently facing American auto manufacturers. The witnesses identified a number of areas where the government and industry can work together to ensure this vital industry remains prosperous and competitive in a global marketplace.

“Our nation’s auto manufacturers, suppliers, and dealers have certainly faced some challenges in the last decade – but the sector is on the rebound. Vehicle output is on the rise, sales are up, and the Big 3 have all recently announced they plan to expand operations and hire more employees,” said full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). “This is an important time in auto manufacturing and we are interested in hearing about the challenges facing the industry as well as the success stories.”

Joseph R. Hinrichs, President of the Americas for the Ford Motor Company, urged Congress to adopt polices that provide greater regulatory certainty, stating, “Government policies must evolve in today’s environment to ensure that American businesses and workers are not disadvantaged in the global market. United States policy makers must work together to support manufacturing by shaping a climate for economic growth, regulatory certainty, and a strong foundation for U.S. exports. Business thrives - and jobs grow - where there is stability and predictability.”

William A. Smith, Executive Director of Government Affairs and Community Relations with American Axle and Manufacturing, explained the need for more favorable trade policies, noting, “Mexico now has 12 Free Trade Agreements with 44 countries in place and operating. This is more than any other country in the world. The United States needs to establish global trade policies that open international markets, enhance competitiveness and reduce regulatory and tariff barriers.”

James Wehrman, Senior Vice President of Manufacturing at Honda, echoed the importance of free and open trade and described some of the non-tariff related barriers. He stated, “The most difficult hurdles to overcome are often invisible, ineffective, and sometimes opaque procedures when crossing borders. Such inefficiencies may exist in documentation, data submission and processing, and physical inspection. This causes undue uncertainty for importers and exporters, who must account for a range of scenarios. Globally-equivalent, efficient and transparent customs procedures and standards would help reduce this uncertainty.”

All of today’s witnesses highlighted the challenges of finding skilled American workers to fill open manufacturing positions. Chris Nielsen, President of Toyota Manufacturing, Texas, explained, “With the advancements in manufacturing technology and techniques, the required skill sets of these manufacturing careers are changing too. This is a systematic problem for all automakers and suppliers and for manufacturing in general. Products can be made and sold anywhere. To sustain our manufacturing in the U.S., we must be competitive in the global manufacturing market, not only against our direct competitors but against other countries with Toyota facilities. Nationally, 600,000 skilled training jobs are currently unfilled, as manufacturers across America comb the countryside for qualified workers.”

Chairman Terry added, “Auto manufacturers, suppliers and dealers have certainly faced tough times in the last decade. The Great Recession saw vehicle production fall from 10.7 million in 2007 to 5.7 million in 2009. However, since 2009, we have seen this figure rebound to 8.7 million vehicles produced and 100,000 jobs recouped or added. This is progress but we have more work to do to create jobs and grow our nation of builders.”

To view pictures from this morning’s hearing, click here