Steel Markets

North American Auto Assemblies Gain Ground in March

Written by David Schollaert

Auto assemblies in North America gained ground in March for the first time since October, according to LMC Automotive (LMCA). North American production rose to 1.217 million units in March, up from 1.092 million in February, but production continues to suffer from the ongoing shortage of semiconductor chips. North American production was up 20.1% in March compared to year-ago levels when the pandemic was beginning to slow the economy. The annual production rate in March was 14.6 million units, up from 13.1 million units the month prior. 

While the U.S. market continues to work through the effects of the pandemic, chip shortages and supply chain disruptions that have tightened vehicle inventories, the selling rate for U.S. light vehicles reached 18.0 million units per year, up from 15.8 million units in February. This was also the highest ever selling rate for the month of March, according to LMCA. Canada’s light vehicle sales totaled 172,000 units, up by 76.2% compare to year-ago sales. Canada’s selling rate was 1.9 million units per year in March, up slightly from February. Meanwhile, the Mexican market grew by 9.2% year on year in March, to 95,000 units sold, while the annualized selling rate was 1.1 million units. For comparison, Figure 1 shows U.S. sales and North American production. 

Auto Figure1

A short-term snapshot of assembly by nation and vehicle type is shown in the table below. It breaks down total North American personal and commercial vehicle production into the U.S, Canadian and Mexican components, along with the three- and 12-month growth rate for each. At the far right it shows the momentum for the total and for each of the three nations. In three months through March, total personal vehicle assemblies in the USMCA region were negative 12.6% year over year as supply chain disruptions from the chip shortage further impacted production. The results are a slight improvement, however, from February’s growth rate of negative 13.5%, and still a strong turnaround from the pandemic-induced decrease of 70.5% seen in June 2020. Commercial light vehicle assemblies were up 5.1% year over year in March, a strong improvement from a negative 3.6% in February and miles away from the negative 71.7% in March of 2020. Note that there has been zero commercial vehicle production in Canada for 15 consecutive months. Despite the overall poor performance on the three-month growth rate, the momentum shift remains positive with total personal vehicle production on an 8.4% rise while commercial is at a 21.3% rise.

Auto Table1.1


Personal Vehicle Production

The longer-term picture on personal vehicle production across North America is show below. The first chart in Figure 2 shows the total personal vehicle production for North America and the total for each nation. The production of personal vehicles in the U.S. and the year-over-year growth rate is displayed in the second chart. Figure 3 shows side-by-side the production of personal vehicles in Canada and Mexico, and the year-over-year growth rate.

In terms of personal vehicle production, Canada saw the strongest annual growth rate month on month in March at 13.9%. The annual growth rate in the U.S. was 11.2% in March, while Mexico posted a 1.1% growth rate. Despite the strong increase, Canada’s personal vehicle production share of the North American market is the lowest at 12.8%. Mexico carries 20.8% of the market share across the continent, while the U.S. has 66.4% of the North American production share. The U.S saw its market share slip slightly at the close of 2020 to 63.6%, but has since rebounded to its highest share since April 2016.

Auto Figure2

Auto Figure3


Commercial Vehicle Production

The total commercial vehicle production for North America and the total for each nation on a rolling three-month basis is shown below in the first chart in Figure 4, while the production of commercial vehicles in the U.S and the year-over-year growth rate is displayed in the second chart. Figure 5 shows the production of commercial vehicles and the year-over-year growth rate in Mexico displayed in the first chart, while the second chart shows the production share for each nation. It’s important to note that Canada has had no production of commercial vehicles over the past 15 consecutive months.

North American commercial vehicle production was up 16.6% on an annual rate in March, compared to the month prior. Mexico’s commercial vehicle production increase 17.6% on an annual rate month on month in March, while the U.S saw an increase of 16.2% over the same period. The U.S. share edged down from 77.6% in June 2020 to 72.7% in December. It subsequently rebounded in January and February, but has since edged down to 74.5% in March, down 0.3% from the prior month. Mexico’s share rose during the same period from 22.4% in June to 27.3% in December. The share then dipped down to 25.2% through February, but inched up to 25.5% in March. Mexico currently exports about 80% of its light vehicle production, while the U.S and Canada are the highest volume destinations for Mexican exports.

Auto Figure4

Auto Figure5

Editor’s Note: This report is based on data from LMC Automotive for automotive assemblies in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The breakdown of assemblies is “Personal” (cars for personal use) and “Commercial” (light vehicles less than 6.0 metric tons gross vehicle weight rating; heavy trucks and buses are not included). In this report, we describe light vehicle sales in the U.S. and report in detail on assemblies in the three regions of North America.

By David Schollaert,

David Schollaert

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