Transportation Equipment

Author: Mitch Semanik
International Trade Analyst

Change in 2015 from 2014:

  To view changing data, mouseover the graphic below.
  • U.S. total exports: Decreased by $10.0 billion (3 percent) to $326.3 billion
  • U.S. general imports: Increased by $22.5 billion (6 percent) to $425.4 billion

In 2015, U.S. total exports of transportation equipment decreased by 3 percent, falling from $336.3 billion to $326.3 billion. This was the only annual decrease in transportation equipment exports recorded in the five-year period 2011–15. In contrast, U.S. general imports increased by 6 percent from $402.9 billion to $425.4 billion.

U.S. Exports1

U.S. domestic exports of transportation equipment, which comprised 91 percent of total exports in this industry, decreased 3 percent from 2014.2 The sectors experiencing the largest annual declines in domestic exports by value were motor vehicles (down $6.3 billion), construction and mining equipment ($5.0 billion), and internal combustion piston engines ($2.2 billion). On the other hand, domestic exports grew in several other sectors; aircraft, spacecraft, and related equipment ($4.7 billion) and certain motor vehicle parts ($1.4 billion) were the sectors with the largest increases in domestic exports by value (table TE.1).

Table TE.1:Transportation equipment: U.S. exports and general imports, by selected trading partners, 2011–15

 
Million $
 
Item 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Absolute change, 
2014–15
Percent
change, 
2014–15
U.S. exports of domestic merchandise:              
    Mexico 26,828 31,126 33,727 35,400 36,649 1,249 3.5
    Canada 63,923 68,185 68,930 69,846 65,614 -4,232 -6.1
    Japan 7,775 11,462 10,048 9,892 9,813 -79 -0.8
    Germany 13,116 13,506 12,589 13,393 14,044 652 4.9
    China 15,831 17,523 25,047 28,932 28,040 -892 -3.1
    South Korea 4,802 5,579 6,216 5,920 7,555 1,635 27.6
    United Kingdom 9,957 9,569 10,916 12,053 12,899 846 7.0
    France 7,847 8,261 8,496 8,417 9,266 849 10.1
    Italy 1,990 2,275 2,373 2,822 3,136 315 11.1
    Brazil 9,122 8,956 8,143 6,983 5,991 -992 -14.2
    All other 96,883 109,623 106,613 112,297 104,034 -8,263 -7.4
        Total domestic exports 258,074 286,065 293,097 305,955 297,041 -8,914 -2.9
Foreign exports 21,990 27,331 29,076 30,323 29,227 -1,096 -3.6
Total U.S. exports (domestic and foreign) 280,064 313,396 322,173 336,278 326,269 -10,010 -3.0
U.S. general imports:              
    Mexico 67,507 77,861 85,151 96,238 103,998 7,760 8.1
    Canada 64,658 73,441 71,545 74,271 73,705 -566 -0.8
    Japan 55,699 70,143 67,916 65,174 66,124 950 1.5
    Germany 34,128 40,291 43,413 46,110 47,870 1,760 3.8
    China 15,440 17,045 18,052 21,474 23,856 2,382 11.1
    South Korea 15,279 18,804 20,868 23,956 27,021 3,065 12.8
    United Kingdom 10,796 12,772 12,988 14,075 14,840 765 5.4
    France 10,704 11,549 13,205 13,883 13,910 27 0.2
    Italy 4,651 5,785 6,539 7,872 9,103 1,231 15.6
    Brazil 2,987 3,419 3,367 4,251 4,782 531 12.5
    All other 28,146 32,205 32,476 35,669 40,219 4,550 12.8
        Total general imports 309,994 363,317 375,521 402,972 425,428 22,456 5.6

Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce for the 2011–15 period. These reflect all official revisions of previously published data up to June 2015 (accessed February 10, 2016).
Note: Import values are based on Customs value; export values are based on free along ship value, U.S. port of export. Calculations based on unrounded data. The trading partners shown are those with the largest total U.S. trade (U.S. general imports plus U.S. domestic exports) in these products in the current year. Re-exports (also called foreign exports) are further defined in the “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs).

Canada, Mexico, and China were the largest trading partners for U.S. domestic exports of transportation equipment, with Canada accounting for $65.6 billion of such exports; Mexico, for $36.6 billion; and China, for $28.0 billion. Together, the three nations accounted for 44 percent of U.S. domestic exports in this industry (table TE.2). Canada and Mexico are leading U.S. trade partners because of their proximity to the United States and the preferences conferred by the NAFTA trade agreement, which has led to an integrated automotive supply chain among NAFTA partners. China's economic size, market power, and growing middle class contribute to China's continuing role as an important U.S. trade partner.3

Table TE.2: Transportation equipment: Leading changes in U.S. exports and imports, 2011–15

 
Million $
 
Item 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Absolute change, 
2014–15
Percent
change, 
2014–15
U.S. domestic exports:              
    Increases:              
        Aircraft, spacecraft, and related equipment (TE013) 82,245 95,360 104,389 113,706 118,381 4,675 4.1
        Certain motor-vehicle parts (TE010) 35,653 37,874 38,254 38,768 40,179 1,411 3.6
        Motor vehicles (TE009) 59,436 65,750 69,846 73,650 67,323 -6,327 -8.6
    Decreases:              
        Construction and mining equipment (TE004) 27,998 30,006 23,791 20,373 15,360 -5,012 -24.6
        Internal combustion piston engines, other than for aircraft (TE002) 18,189 18,942 18,867 20,218 18,009 -2,209 -10.9
    All other 34,553 38,134 37,949 39,241 37,789 -1,452 -3.7
        Total 258,074 286,065 293,097 305,955 297,041 -8,914 -2.9
U.S. general imports:              
    Increases:              
        Motor vehicles (TE009) 140,963 168,194 176,789 183,144 197,730 14,586 8.0
        Certain motor-vehicle parts (TE010) 63,368 73,333 75,215 82,005 86,151 4,145 5.1
        Ships, tugs, pleasure boats, and similar vessels (TE014) 1,269 1,951 1,913 1,559 2,793 1,234 79.2
    All other 104,395 119,839 121,605 136,264 138,754 2,490 1.8
        Total 309,994 363,317 375,521 402,972 425,428 22,456 5.6

Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce for the 2011–15 period. These reflect all official revisions of previously published data up to June 2015 (accessed February 10, 2016).
Note: Import values are based on Customs value; export values are based on free along ship value, U.S. port of export. Calculations based on unrounded data.

The value of U.S. domestic exports of motor vehicles fell by 9 percent, from $73.7 billion in 2014 to $67.3 billion in 2015. This decline is partially explained by decreasing exports to Canada and China, the two largest importers of U.S. motor vehicles. Domestic exports to Canada fell by 5.9 percent, from $27.4 billion in 2014 to $25.8 billion in 2015. However, while the value of exports fell, the actual number of motor vehicles exported to Canada grew in 2015.4 One explanation for this discrepancy was the continued appreciation of the U.S. dollar against other major currencies.5 Moreover, while vehicle prices on similar models would be comparable between the United States and Canada once exchange rates were factored in, some motor vehicle prices were being discounted in 2015. For example, even after accounting for exchange rates, the Honda Accord was priced at around $5,700 less in Canada than in the United States.6 The value of U.S. domestic exports to China declined 17.2 percent, from $11.0 billion in 2014 to $9.1 billion in 2015. One reason for lower exports, especially exports of luxury goods such as motor vehicles, was the economic downturn and market crash China experienced in 2015.7

U.S. domestic exports of internal combustion piston engines fell by 11 percent, from $20.2 billion in 2014 to $18.0 billion in 2015. Because trade in engines and motor vehicles is directly related, it follows that Canada ($5.8 billion) and China ($0.9 billion) were also two of the top three largest importers of U.S. internal combustion piston engines.8 Just as with motor vehicles, exports to both of these countries in this sector also declined in 2015. However, the largest decline in exports of internal combustion piston engines occurred in Mexico. Exports to Mexico fell by 17 percent, from $6.6 billion in 2014 to $5.5 billion in 2015. One possible reason for the drop in imports could be the advent of new automotive plants in Mexico. For example, in 2015, Honda completed a new $470 million transmission plant in Mexico. The new plant further strengthened Honda’s automotive production capabilities. These new automotive plants likely contributed to the decrease in U.S. exports of internal combustion piston engines to Mexico.9

Construction and mining equipment was the sector which experienced the largest percentage decrease in domestic exports in 2015. Exports fell by 25 percent, from $20.4 billion in 2014 to $15.4 billion in 2015. Caterpillar, the world’s largest construction and mining equipment company, saw overall sales drop by 15 percent and profits by 43 percent between 2014 and 2015. A strong U.S. dollar coupled with lower commodity prices in crude petroleum, coal, iron, and copper contributed to a struggling construction and mining equipment industry.10 The largest importers of U.S.-made construction and mining equipment in 2015 were Canada (with imports worth $3.4 billion), Mexico ($1.8 billion), and Australia ($0.8 billion). Exports to these countries dropped between 18 and 20 percent in 2015.

U.S. domestic exports of aircraft, spacecraft, and related equipment grew by $4.7 billion (4 percent) in 2015, primarily driven by increased purchasing by five countries: China (up $1.8 billion), Saudi Arabia (up $1.6 billion), South Korea (up $1.5 billion), Chile (up $1.3 billion), and Singapore (up $1.3 billion). The largest buyers of aircraft, spacecraft, and related equipment by total value were China ($15.1 billion), United Kingdom ($8.2 billion), and France ($8.1 billion). Boeing is the largest U.S. exporting firm in this sector and had a record-breaking year in terms of deliveries in 2015. Surpassing its 2014 record,11 Boeing delivered 762 airplanes valued at $112.4 billion.12 To facilitate its increased production, Boeing opened an expansion to its Seattle Delivery Center in 2015. The expanded center is tasked with distributing Boeing's popular 737 line of aircraft, which made up more than half of its 2015 deliveries.13

U.S. Imports

Between 2014 and 2015, several transportation equipment sectors experienced significant increases in general imports into the United States: motor vehicles ($14.6 billion); certain motor vehicle parts ($4.1 billion); and ships, tugs, pleasure boats, and similar vessels ($1.2 billion). Mexico (accounting for $104.0 billion total), Canada ($73.7 billion), and Japan ($66.1 billion) were the top three suppliers of transportation equipment into the United States, contributing 57 percent of U.S. imports (see table TE.2).

The motor vehicles sector experienced a $14.6 billion (8 percent) increase in U.S. general imports between 2014 and 2015. This growth was driven by record automotive sales in the United States in 2015.14 The three largest U.S. suppliers of motor vehicles were Mexico ($50.7 billion), Canada ($44.8 billion), and Japan ($36.4 billion). Both Mexico and Canada are top-10 producers of motor vehicles and benefit from a highly integrated motor vehicle industry with their NAFTA partner, the United States.15 However, U.S. general imports from Canada decreased 1 percent in 2015, partially explained by a decline in overall Canadian vehicle production between 2014 and 2015.16 On the other hand, Mexico continued to attract investments in the automotive industry and increased imports into the United States by 8 percent.17 Japan, the world's third-largest producer of motor vehicles, increased its imports into the United States by $1.9 billion in 2015, breaking its sales records in this country.18 However, while Japanese production of motor vehicles increased in 2015, motor vehicle sales in Japan declined.19

U.S. general imports of certain motor vehicle parts increased by 5 percent, from $82.0 billion in 2014 to $86.2 billion in 2015. This increase in vehicle parts nearly correlates with a similar 4 percent increase in the number of vehicles produced in the United States between 2014 and 2015.20 In addition to being leading trading partners in motor vehicles, Mexico ($35.1 billion) and Canada ($10.5 billion) were also two of the top three suppliers to the U.S. market for certain motor vehicle parts. China ($10.8 billion) surpassed Canada as the second-largest supplier of imports of these goods into the United States, in part due to declining imports from Canada between 2014 and 2015. By contrast with Canadian imports, during 2015, Mexican imports increased by $3.3 billion and Chinese imports increased by $1.1 billion.

In 2015, U.S. imports of ships, tugs, pleasure boats, and similar vessels from Japan jumped by over 6,000 percent, from $10.0 million in 2014 to $625.9 million in 2015. The principal contributing factor to Japan's rise to the largest supplier in this sector was an increase in U.S. imports of floating or submersible drilling or production platforms.21 Before 2015, Japan was not even one of the United States' top 15 import sources in this sector. The second- and third-largest suppliers to the United States in 2015 were Italy ($418.9 million total) and Canada ($262.1 million). Italy's exports of these goods to the United States increased by 60 percent, mostly driven by sales of motorboats,22 whereas Canada experienced a 1 percent decrease in these exports in 2015.

 

1 As appropriate, this section will address total exports, domestic exports, and re-exports.
2 Re-exports, which represented 9 percent of total exports, decreased at largely the same rate as total exports, declining by 4 percent from $30.3 billion in 2014 to $29.2 billion in 2015.
3 Yan, “China Has a Bigger Middle Class than America,” October 14, 2015; Barton, “The Rise of the Middle Class in China,” May 21, 2013.
4 USITC DataWeb/USDOC (HS 8703; accessed April 27, 2016).
5 See the “Overall Economic Performance“ webpage. Powell, “Boom, Bust, Peg, Parity,” January 16, 2016.
6 Macdonald, “Psst, Wanna Buy a TV?” January 5, 2016.
7 Hirsch, “Carmakers Fret over China's Slowing Auto Market,” September 2, 2015; Young, “China Economy: Car-Buying Sentiment Drops in China,” September 2, 2015; Riley and Yan, “China's Stock Market Crash . . . in 2 Minutes,” August 27, 2015.
8 The internal combustion piston engine sector classified within Transportation Equipment (commodity group TE002) excludes engines designated for aircraft.
9 Honda, “Honda Increases North American Manufacturing Footprint,” February 21, 2014; Heir, “Honda Transmissions Plant Inauguration in Celaya,” October 9, 2015.
10 Grayson, “Caterpillar Profit Fell 43% in 2015,” January 28, 2016; Carey, “Caterpillar Warns of 2015 Sales Hit,” January 27, 2015; Trefis Team, “Caterpillar Revised to $85 on Oil Prices,” March 4, 2015.
11 Boeing delivered 723 airplanes in 2014. Boeing, “Boeing Commercial Airplanes Achieves Milestone Year,” January 6, 2015.
12 The $112.4 billion value is based on list prices. Boeing, “Boeing Achieves Record Commercial Airplanes Deliveries in 2015,” January 7, 2016.
13 Farris, “Boeing Opens New Seattle Delivery Center,” October 27, 2015; Boeing, “Boeing Achieves Record Commercial Airplanes Deliveries,” January 7, 2016.
14 Phillips, “Detroit 3, Nissan, Toyota, Honda Finish 2015,” January 5, 2016.
15 OICA, “2015 Production Statistics” (accessed April 28, 2016).
16 Ibid.; CBC News, “Canadian Automotive Sector Hollowing Out,” January 27, 2016.
17 Bailey, “The Acceleration of Mexico’s Auto Manufacturing Industry,” August 6, 2015; Priddle and Snavely, “More Car Manufacturing Jobs Move South,” June 15, 2015; Althaus and Boston, “Why Auto Makers Are Building,” March 17, 2015.
18 OICA, “2015 Production Statistics” (accessed April 28, 2016); Japan Times, “Japan’s Automakers Achieve Record U.S. Sales,” January 6, 2016.
19 OICA, “2015 Production Statistics” (accessed April 28, 2016); Schmitt, “Japan, the Land of the Setting Sun,” January 5, 2016.
20 OICA, “2015 Production Statistics” (accessed April 28, 2016).
21 U.S. general imports of floating or submersible drilling or production platforms increased from $0 in 2014 to $617.4 million in 2015, accounting for the large majority of the increase to $625.9 million. USITC DataWeb/USDOC (HTS 890520; accessed May 11, 2016).
22 USITC DataWeb/USDOC (HTS 890392; accessed May 11, 2016).