PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Yes, We Can (Make Quality Products) in the U.S.A.

By David M. Kinchen
JCB Pooler, Ga.
JCB Pooler, Ga.
I'm writing this column because Craig Hammond, host of a radio talk show -- Radio Active on WHIS 1440 AM and WTZE 1470 AM in Bluefield, WV -- thought I was being overly pessimistic when I was interviewed on the air Friday, Aug. 5 (via telephone) about my book review of "Death by China: Confronting the Dragon -- A Global Call to Action" (link: http://www.huntingtonnews.net/7021).

Hammond suggested that Peter Navarro and Greg Autry, authors of the the book, were more optimistic than I am about the future of American manufacturing and the resulting good jobs  -- and I want to balance my pessimistic outlook -- if indeed it was pessimistic. Much of the book deals with the hollowing out of the American manufacturing base by U.S. manufacturing CEOs from companies like GE, Westinghouse and Caterpillar.

Companies headquartered in countries as diverse as the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and South Korea have taken a different approach from the neo-mercantilism described by Navarro and Autry in "Death by China" and have built highly successful manufacturing facilities throughout the U.S.
 Here are snapshots of just a few of them. I'm not including long-time Japan-headquartered manufacturers like Honda and Kawasaki, who've been building motorcycles and ATVs for many decades in Lincoln Nebraska (Kawasaki) and, in the case of Honda, motorcycles and automotive vehicles in Marysville, Ohio.,  Lincoln, Alabama and since 2008 in Greensburg, Indiana.

Hyundai in the U.S.

The South Korean company Hyundai began selling cars in the U.S. in 1986 with the econobox Excel model. It turned out to be a disaster and only a major shakeup in the company turned its fortunes around. Hyundai began assembling cars in the U.S. in a plant just outside Montgomery, Alabama in 2005. The $1.1 billion facility assembles the Hyundai Sonata and the Hyundai Santa Fe. The plant was preceded by extensive design and engineering facilities in California and Michigan. Emphasis on quality control turned the company's fortunes around and Hyundai cars come with long warranties (10 years in the U.S.)  and are highly rated by J.D. Power and Associates and Consumer Reports.

  Toyota in Texas

Toyota no longer manufactures cars in its plant in the East Bay area of San Francisco, where it had a joint venture in a former GM assembly plant in Fremont, CA, Toyota assembles Camrys, Hybrid Camrys, Avalons and Venzas in Georgetown, Kentucky. This fall it will begin manufacturing Prius hybrids in a new factory in Tupelo, Mississippi. Toyota makes engines in Huntsville, Alabama and Putnam County, West Virginia, and manufactures Sequoias, Siennas and Highlanders in a plant halfway between Princeton and Fort Branch in southern Indiana. One of the company's most unusual plants is in deep in the heart of Texas' pickup county,  Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, Inc (TMMTX) is an automobile production subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corporation based in San Antonio, Texas, USA which owns and operates a manufacturing and assembly facility for the parent company. The TMMTX assembly lines currently produce the Tundra full-size pickup truck and the Tacomamid-size pickup truck.

BMW in South Carolina

The BMW US Manufacturing Company in Greer, South Carolina is BMW's only US production facility. It was built to serve the demand of BMW automobiles directly in the US.  The Spartanburg plant does not actually assemble all BMW vehicles sold in the US market; instead, the plant serves as the only X3, X5, and X6 production site in the world; all models of these vehicles exported worldwide originate from BMW Spartanburg.

 When BMW announced in 1992 that it would build a manufacturing facility in the United States to strengthen its international production system, a new era began. The location: a 1,150-acre site in Spartanburg County,South Carolina.  The state of South Carolina had little expertise in automotive production, but its assets included: a qualified workforce and additional training through its Technical Education System; easily accessible transportation facilities, including a deep-water port, major airport, modern rail and road systems (BMW has a transportation contract with Norfolk Southern Railway); and strategic location within easy distribution range of a majority of BMW’s primary United States markets.

The now $2.2 billion investment solidly positions BMW Manufacturing as an integral part in the company’s five-plant production network. Presently employing 7,000 people, unlike many other automobile factories, all of the manufacturing processes at the plant are under one roof, creating an open communications environment that enhances the focus on quality.

 Latest news: "BMW Adds 100 Jobs, Part-Time Work for Students

link: http://www.wyff4.com/r/28756883/detail.html

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- BMW leaders announced Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011 that the company will add 100 new jobs this year.

The positions will be in the areas of engineering, information technology and production management, Harald Krueger, a human resources executive, told a crowd that gathered inside the plant.

"We are the biggest exporter in the automotive industry in the United States and that's something we are proud of," Krueger said.

Krueger also announced the creation of the BMW Scholars Program. The two-year program will enable some full-time students at Spartanburg Community College, Greenville Technical College and Tri-County Technical College to work 20 hours a week at BMW. BMW plans to recruit 35 scholars each year, Krueger said.

"I think this will help us to develop the next generation of our workforce here in South Carolina," Josef Kerscher, president of BMW Manufacturing, told WYFF. "I'm very optimistic that this program can become also a role model for other companies in the Southeast."

Adam Grantz, a student at Tri-County Tech, is among the first 15 scholars chosen to take part in the program.

"I'm expanding my knowledge and experience of manufacturing. I'm learning about how to do maintenance on machines and robotics that are used here to produce BMWs," Grantz told WYFF. "I'd love to have this as a permanent job."

Gov. Nikki Haley attended the announcement and praised BMW for its ever-growing investment in South Carolina.

"You give us reasons to be thankful everyday, and we thank you for that," Haley said.

Company officials said BMW's workforce has grown from 2,000 employees nearly 20 years ago to more than 7,000 today.

"What we continue to do is maintain a strong relationship with BMW," Haley told WYFF. "We're gonna continue to do all we can to keep them successful because the more successful they are, the more jobs they'll have to offer."

BMW also announced plans to invest $5 million in a new health care facility for its associates and their families. A third-party provider will operate the center, which will be built near the plant. Construction is expected to begin later this summer. The facility is scheduled to open in mid-2012 with limited services. By January 2013, company officials said the BMW Associate Family Health Center will include medical and primary health services, vision, dental, physical therapy and occupational health. BMW's onsite family pharmacy will also locate in the new facility.


Subaru in Indiana

The history of SUBARU of INDIANA AUTOMOTIVE, INC., Lafayette, Indiana  is unique to the automotive industry.   Originally, SIA was a joint venture between Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. and Isuzu Motors Limited. This venture was formed in March of 1987. At the beginning of 2003, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. became the sole owner of SIA. SIA Associates now build the Subaru Legacy, Outback, and Tribeca along with the Toyota Camry.

In 1953 Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (FHI) was established from five of the leading companies remaining after the division, and from that corporation Subaru arose.  "Subaru" is a Japanese word for Pleides (Plee-a-dees), a constellation widely known since ancient times, which is used as Subaru's logo to symbolize unity and purpose.

In May 1986 FHI and Isuzu agreed to a joint venture to establish a manufacturing plant in the United States.  Of the many cities originally explored in the United States, 13 sites were eventually chosen  for further consideration in seven states, including the state of Indiana, historically an auto manufacturing state (Studebaker, Marmon, Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg, among many others).  In December of 1986 Lafayette was selected as the site for the plant and Subaru-Isuzu Automotive was incorporated in March of 1987 as the managing company for this site.  Ground was broken for the SIA plant in May, 1987.  The 2.3 million-square foot facility performs all integrated operations from stamping to final assembly.  The annual phase 1 production of 60,000 Subaru Legacys and 60,000 Isuzu pickups and Rodeos began on September 11, 1989.  The plant was officially dedicated on October 16, 1989 with a week long grand opening ceremony. In January 2003, SIA became Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc. signifying the sole ownership by Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. SIA discontinued production of Isuzu vehicles on July 23, 2004, and began to build the Toyota Camry on February 28, 2007. 

Mercedes in Alabama

Mercedes-Benz U.S. International (MBUSI) is a Mercedes-Benz automobile manufacturing plant near Vance, Alabama. The plant is about 34 miles west of Birmingham and about 19 miles miles east of downtown Tuscaloosa, home of the Crimson Tide, the University of Alabama. The factory was announced in 1993  and produced its first vehicle, a ML320, in February 1997. 

Daimler announced in December 2009 that it will move production of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class to its Vance plant, with production beginning in 2014. Cars manufactured in the plant: Mercedes-Benz M-Class; Mercedes-Benz R-Class; Mercedes-Benz GL-Class.

 JCB in Georgia

 More than a decade ago, JCB, Europe's largest construction equipment manufacturer, based in the U.K., announced it was building its first factory outside Britain. After an exhaustive search process, the company chose a site near Savannah, Georgia, which has one of the largest ocean ports in the nation. JCB (named from the initial letters of Joseph Cyril Bamford, who founded the company in 1945) has grown to be the third largest heavy equipment manufacturer in the world.
Work on the  $62 million project, 500,000 square foot facility on a 1,064-acre site near the City of Pooler, in Chatham County, started in the late 1990s and manufacturing began in 2000.

JCB initially produced backhoe loaders at the  factory, creating up to 100 jobs in the first phase. Eventually this could rise to around 550.  JCB is a family-owned business, founded 53 years ago in Staffordshire, England. The company is the world's fifth largest construction equipment manufacturer.
JCB's main competitors worldwide are the American companies Caterpillar, Case and John Deere and the Japanese Komatsu and Hitachi.

JCB is already the world market leader for backhoe loaders, and takes the largest share of European sales. In the US, a total of more than 30,000 Backhoe Loaders are sold annually, and JCB also takes a significant share of this market, selling through a network of 120 dealers.

John Patterson, JCB Group Chief Executive, said: "Opening this factory is an important part of our worldwide expansion programme."

"The United States represents 50% of the world market for our major products and offers us big opportunities for growth. Manufacturing here puts JCB in a stronger position to increase our share of this key market."

"Several thousand machines with specifications unique to the USA are currently manufactured in the UK and exported. The numbers have now reached a level where it is logical to make them here. Our manufacturing capability in Savannah allows us to meet projected market growths not only in the US but also in Canada and South America."

"Manufacturing in the US will also further enhance JCB's status as a world player, with a world class site in an attractive location to show its customers and first rate demonstration and training facilities."

"Savannah is an ideal location," Patterson said in the news release. "It has the perfect site for our requirements, excellent transport systems, as well as a respected work force and forward thinking state and local government officials who have given us considerable assistance over many aspects of the project."

     * * * OK, that's a snapshot, with many more overseas companies in countries that believe in fair competition finding the U.S. an ideal place, with motivated workers who are among the most productive in the world. Now, if only China would realize this. Taiwan does with Formosa Plastics which makes PVC  in Point Comfort, TX, just across the causeway over Lavaca Bay from Port Lavaca, where I currently live.
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