US Auto Parts Imports Inch Up

US Auto Parts Imports Inch Up

Containerized auto parts imported through U.S. ports reached 205,139 TEUs in the fourth quarter of 2013, increasing 1.0 percent year-over-year, according to PIERS, the data division of JOC Group.

U.S. waterborne containerized imports of auto parts in the fourth quarter rose 1.0 percent year-over-year.

The increase marked a rebound from the third quarter’s 0.2 percent year-over-year decline, although volume fell 4.5 percent compared with that quarter.

For the full year of 2013, U.S. waterborne containerized auto imports totaled 848,272 TEUs, up 3.4 percent from 820,533 TEUs in 2012.

Year-over-year growth in terms of value spiked 44.4 percent in 2010 following the 2008-2009 recession, but has decelerated since then, increasing only 2.2 percent year-over-year in 2013, the lowest level in the last four years.

The value of U.S. containerized auto parts imports has declined since 2010 because new vehicle production schedule increases have slowed, Dave Andrea, senior vice president of industry analysis and economics at Original Equipment Suppliers Association, told the JOC.

Auto industry analyst WardsAuto has forecast a 0.3 percent year-over-year increase in North American auto manufacturers’ production schedules in the first half of 2014.

Additionally, the U.S. is increasingly becoming a competitive manufacturing hub, as original equipment manufacturers localize auto parts production in order to avoid currency exchange rates, logistics costs and supply chain risks, Andrea said. However, he noted that the U.S. does not have the manufacturing capabilities to meet increased demand for electronics content in cars, driven by automotive safety and fuel economy requirements.

Mainland China was the top source country for U.S. waterborne containerized imports of auto parts in 2013.

Mainland China retained the top spot in the source country rankings in 2013, with its market share inching up 0.9 percentage point year-over-year to 26.2 percent. Other top countries of origin for U.S. auto parts imports were Japan, at 21.2 percent, down 1.3 percentage point; South Korea, 15.4 percent, up 1.1 percentage point; and Germany, 11.1 percent, slipping 0.2 percentage point.

The volume of auto parts imported from South Korea showed the largest increase, from 118,013 TEUs in 2012 to 130,929 TEUs in 2013, representing a 10.9 percent increase.

“U.S. production increases by Hyundai and Kia are likely behind the South Korean numbers,” Andrea said.

He predicted that South Korea and Germany will export more containerized auto parts to the U.S. in the future as manufacturers in those countries increase assembly levels in the U.S. For example, on March 28, BMW announced plans for a $1 billion expansion of its facility in Spartanburg, S.C.

On the other hand, auto parts imported from Brazil recorded the largest dip, falling 16.5 percent from 17,464 TEUs in 2012 to 14,586 TEUs in 2013. India experienced the second-largest year-over-year decline in volume, down 5.6 percent from 16,698 TEUs in 2012 to 15,770 TEUs in 2013, and as a result, Brazil took over India’s spot as the sixth-ranked source for waterborne containerized auto imports.

Contact Grace M. Lavigne at and follow her on Twitter: @Lavigne_JOC.