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Transportation equipment

Mitchell Semanik
(202) 205-2034
Mitchell.Semanik@usitc.gov

  To view changing data, hover over or touch the animated graphic below.

Change in 2017 from 2016:

  • U.S. total transportation equipment exports: increased by $5.4 billion (1.7 percent) to $325.4 billion
  • U.S. general transportation equipment imports: increased by $16.6 billion (4.0 percent) to $434.9 billion

U.S. total exports of transportation equipment rose 1.7 percent from $320.0 billion in 2016 to $325.4 billion in 2017. This annual increase followed two consecutive annual declines in transportation equipment exports, which fell 2.7 percent in 2015 and 2.3 percent in 2016. U.S. general imports also increased, rising 4 percent from $418.3 billion in 2016 to $434.9 billion in 2017. This increase followed a one-year decrease in transportation equipment imports of 1.9 percent in 2016—the only such decrease during the previous five-year period.

U.S. Exports[1]

U.S. domestic exports of transportation equipment, which accounted for 89.5 percent of total exports of these goods, increased 0.8 percent, rising from $289.1 billion in 2016 to $291.4 billion in 2017.[2] The categories which experienced the largest increases by value in 2017 were internal combustion piston engines[3] ($2.7 billion, 15.8 percent), motor vehicles ($2.0 billion, 3.0 percent), and motor vehicle parts ($1.3 billion, 3.4 percent). In contrast, the largest declines in domestic exports of transportation equipment occurred in two aircraft-related categories: aircraft, spacecraft, and related equipment ($4.7 billion, 3.9 percent) and aircraft engines and gas turbines ($617 million, 6.4 percent). 

Table TE.1: Transportation equipment: U.S. exports and general imports, by selected trading partners, 2013–17

 
Million $
 
Item
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
Absolute change,
2016–17
Percent
change,
2016–17
U.S. exports of domestic merchandise:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    Mexico
33,690
35,398
36,625
34,043
34,628
585
1.7
    Canada
68,930
69,907
66,632
66,100
70,288
4,188
6.3
    Japan
10,048
9,893
9,819
10,445
9,078
-1,366
-13.1
    China
25,047
28,934
28,016
26,952
30,789
3,837
14.2
    Germany
12,588
13,390
14,047
13,657
14,244
586
4.3
    South Korea
6,218
5,919
7,556
8,116
6,021
-2,095
-25.8
    United Kingdom
10,915
12,081
12,897
13,941
11,904
-2,037
-14.6
    France
8,495
8,416
9,300
10,298
11,043
746
7.2
    Italy
2,373
2,822
3,134
2,258
2,538
280
12.4
    Brazil
8,145
6,984
6,016
5,171
6,671
1,501
29.0
    All other
106,621
112,290
104,048
98,128
94,200
-3,928
-4.0
        Total domestic exports
293,069
306,032
298,091
289,108
291,405
2,297
0.8
Foreign exports
29,083
30,407
29,311
30,914
34,030
3,115
10.1
Total U.S. exports (domestic and foreign)
322,152
336,439
327,401
320,022
325,434
5,412
1.7
U.S. general imports:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    Mexico
85,152
96,659
104,402
105,192
114,156
8,964
8.5
    Canada
71,548
74,542
73,911
73,639
71,873
-1,766
-2.4
    Japan
67,916
65,209
66,104
68,642
70,615
1,973
2.9
    China
18,053
21,554
23,920
24,235
26,357
2,123
8.8
    Germany
43,414
46,180
47,952
39,876
38,967
-909
-2.3
    South Korea
20,868
23,960
27,015
25,314
25,304
-10
(a)
    United Kingdom
12,988
14,106
14,836
15,432
15,855
423
2.7
    France
13,205
13,891
13,909
12,641
13,743
1,102
8.7
    Italy
6,539
7,896
9,112
8,792
9,968
1,176
13.4
    Brazil
3,367
4,254
4,781
5,040
4,669
-371
-7.4
    All other
32,476
35,772
40,283
39,483
43,387
3,904
9.9
        Total general imports
375,526
404,024
426,225
418,286
434,894
16,608
4.0

Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
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 countries 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.
aLess than 0.05 percent.

Canada, Mexico, and China were the top three U.S. export markets in 2017 and accounted for $135.7 billion (46.6 percent) of all U.S. domestic exports of transportation equipment.[4] Canada and Mexico are natural trading partners with the United States because of reduced duties under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and lower transportation costs due to their close proximity and shared borders.

The increase in U.S. exports to China of transportation equipment in 2017 was principally concentrated in motor vehicles (up $1.7 billion) and aircraft (up $1.5 billion). China’s growing middle class and an inability to supply demand via its own production are two reasons China will likely continue importing U.S. aircraft. (Boeing projects that China will need 7,240 new aircraft, valued at around $1.1 trillion, by 2036.)[5] China’s rising middle-class income is projected to fuel more spending on motor vehicles as well.[6]

U.S. domestic exports of internal combustion piston engines rose $2.7 billion (15.8 percent) from $16.9 billion in 2016 to $19.6 billion in 2017.[7] Mexico ($6.8 billion) and Canada ($6.6 billion) were the largest export markets, accounting for 68.3 percent of total U.S. exports of these goods in 2017. Exports to Mexico grew by $1.1 billion (19.2 percent) in 2017, and accounted for about a third of the total growth in U.S. exports of internal combustion piston engines in that year. One reason for this growth was Ford’s increased investments in its U.S. engine manufacturing plants. Ford invested $145 million in its Cleveland Engine Plant in 2016 to begin producing the new, second-generation 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine,[8] which supplies engines to Ford’s Mexican operations.[9] General Motors also invested $296 million in an engine production facility in 2016, in New York.[10] U.S. exports to Canada of internal combustion piston engines increased by 2.8 percent in 2017, following a much larger increase the previous year of 8.9 percent. Canadian demand for these products did not grow as quickly in 2017 due to a decline in Canadian exports of motor vehicles.[11]

Table TE.2: Transportation equipment: Leading changes in U.S. exports and imports, 2013–17

 
Million $
 
Item
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
Absolute change,
2016–17
Percent
change,
2016–17
U.S. domestic exports:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    Increases:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        Internal combustion piston engines, other than for            aircraft (TE002)
18,863
20,226
18,040
16,913
19,583
2,670
15.8
        Motor vehicles (TE009)
69,845
73,703
67,381
66,672
68,677
2,005
3.0
        Certain motor-vehicle parts (TE010)
38,247
38,736
40,324
39,228
40,551
1,324
3.4
    Decreases:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        Aircraft, spacecraft, and related equipment (TE013)
104,378
113,744
118,943
120,500
115,782
-4,719
-3.9
    All other
61,737
59,624
53,402
45,795
46,812
1,017
2.2
        Total
293,069
306,032
298,091
289,108
291,405
2,297
0.8
U.S. general imports:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    Increases:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        Motor vehicles (TE009)
176,789
183,158
197,764
200,727
208,616
7,888
3.9
        Construction and mining equipment (TE004)
13,703
15,401
14,869
12,658
14,502
1,845
14.6
        Aircraft engines and gas turbines (TE001)
20,318
21,680
22,330
21,893
23,642
1,748
8.0
    Decreases:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        Certain motor-vehicle parts (TE010)
75,216
82,848
86,910
86,588
85,926
-662
-0.8
    All other
89,501
100,936
104,352
96,420
102,208
5,789
6.0
        Total
375,526
404,024
426,225
418,286
434,894
16,608
4.0

Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
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.

U.S. exports of internal combustion piston engines to China, the third-largest importer of such U.S. engines, increased by $444 million (77.4 percent) in 2017, returning such exports to China  to 2014 levels after declines in both 2015 (17.2 percent) and 2016 (32.4 percent). The increase in exports was due in part to expanded production of commercial vehicles, which increased by 13.8 percent in 2017 after declining by 10 percent in 2015 and rebounding slightly in 2016.[12]

U.S. domestic exports of motor vehicles rose $2 billion (3 percent) from $66.7 billion in 2016 to $68.7 billion in 2017. Canada ($28.6 billion) and China ($10.5 billion) were the two largest markets for U.S. exports in 2017, accounting for 41.6 percent and 15.3 percent of total U.S. exports of motor vehicles, respectively. The increase in U.S. exports to Canada ($2.1 billion, 8 percent) surpassed the increase in total U.S. exports of motor vehicles. More than 2 million vehicles were sold in Canada in 2017, the highest level of vehicle sales in Canadian history.[13] The increase in vehicle sales in Canada was attributed to increased demand for sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickup trucks, due in part to increased business investment in motor vehicles.[14] Ford and General Motors were the two largest sellers in Canada during this period.[15] The most popular model in Canada based on sales, the Chevrolet Cruze, is assembled in Ohio and exported to
Canada.[16] Similarly, Ford’s best-selling model in Canada in 2017, the Ford Escape, is assembled in Kentucky.[17]

On the other hand, U.S. exports to Saudi Arabia fell steeply, dropping by $1.2 billion (44.9 percent) to $1.5 billion in 2017. (Saudi Arabia’s ranking among U.S. motor vehicle importer countries fell from fifth to ninth.) Saudi Arabia is a main re-exporter of motor vehicles to the Middle East,[18] and a buildup of unsold inventories from previous years in the Persian Gulf region (standing as much as 30 percent over 2016 levels) likely explains the drop in exports to Saudi Arabia in
2017.[19]

Similar to the trends in motor vehicle trade, U.S. exports of motor vehicle parts rose $1.3 billion (3.4 percent) from $39.2 billion in 2016 to $40.6 billion in 2017. Canada ($15.6 billion) and Mexico ($13.6 billion) were the two largest markets for U.S. exports in 2017, but experienced slight decreases from 2016 levels. By contrast, China ($2.3 billion) and Brazil ($1.5 billion), the third- and fourth-largest export destinations for U.S. motor vehicle parts, experienced increases of 15.2 percent and 179.2 percent, respectively. 

Automotive industry publications attribute the growth in U.S. exports of motor vehicle parts to Brazil as likely due to renewed demand for U.S. motor vehicles, a lack of domestic production of motor vehicle parts, and high Brazilian tariffs on fully assembled vehicles.[20] Motor vehicle sales rose in Brazil 9.2 percent in 2017. In turn, sales drove up demand for motor vehicle parts for repair purposes.[21] General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, and Volkswagen are the three largest vehicle suppliers in Brazil, making up roughly 66 percent of the market.[22] Due to the higher tariffs on fully assembled vehicles noted above, major U.S. vehicle manufacturers frequently invest in final production in Brazil, supplying their own auto parts, which are not subject to the same high tariffs.[23]

Aircraft, spacecraft, and related equipment was the category of transportation equipment for which U.S. domestic exports fell the most ($4.7 billion, 3.9 percent) in 2017. While U.S. exports to China and France—the two largest destinations for aircraft, spacecraft, and related equipment—went up during the period, exports to other notable markets decreased, including the United Kingdom (UK) (down $1.8 billion) and South Korea (down $1.8 billion). Both the UK and South Korea had received higher-than-average U.S. exports of aircraft, spacecraft, and related equipment in 2015–16, after which exports in 2017 returned to pre-2015 levels.

Specifically, exports to the UK were higher in 2015 and 2016 in part due to increased deliveries of Boeing aircraft to British Airways. British Airways received five Boeing 787-9 aircraft in 2015, 11 Boeing 787-9 aircraft in 2016, and only one Boeing 787-8 in 2017.[24] Due to the high cost of aircraft, the drop-off in deliveries in 2017 drove down the value of exports to the UK in this category by a substantial amount.[25] Similarly, exports to South Korea had been unusually high in 2016, due to Boeing delivering 36 AH-64E Apache helicopters there in a contract worth $1.6 billion.[26]

U.S. Imports

The value of U.S. imports for consumption rose in all but two categories of transportation equipment in 2017.[27] Imports of motor vehicles ($7.7 billion, up 3.7 percent), aircraft engines and gas turbines ($1.8 billion, up 8.2 percent), and construction and mining equipment ($1.7 billion, up 13.4 percent) increased the most. In contrast, motor vehicle parts ($631 million, down 0.8 percent) experienced the largest decline in imports in 2017, with aircraft, spacecraft, and related equipment ($153 million, down 0.5 percent) experiencing a smaller decline.

Mexico ($114.2 billion), Canada ($71.9 billion), and Japan ($70.6 billion) were the top three suppliers of U.S. imports of transportation equipment, and accounted for 59.0 percent of 2017 U.S. imports. As noted earlier, goods traded among the three NAFTA members—Mexico, Canada, and the United States—receive preferential trade treatment under NAFTA and enjoy lower transportation costs due to the countries’ close proximity. U.S. imports of motor vehicles from Japan accounted for 61.5 percent of total transportation equipment imports from Japan in 2017.

U.S. imports for consumption of motor vehicles increased by $7.7 billion (3.7 percent) from $207.4 billion in 2016 to $215.1 billion in 2017. Mexico ($58.0 billion), Canada ($45.7 billion), and Japan ($43.6 billion) were the three largest import sources and accounted for 68.5 percent of all U.S. imports of motor vehicles in 2017. Imports from Mexico increased 16.8 percent in 2017, totaling $8.4 billion and accounting for more than the total increase in U.S. imports of motor vehicles. Increased U.S. imports from Mexico were fueled by a 13 percent increase in Mexican motor vehicle production.[28] This expanded production allowed Mexico to supply more of the U.S. motor vehicle market at a time when U.S. production had dropped (down 8.1 percent in 2017).[29] U.S. vehicle sales, however, declined at a slower rate (1.8 percent) than production, allowing other countries to supply remaining U.S. demand.[30] Some of the popular motor vehicles sold in the United States have undergone final assembly in Mexico since the 1990s.[31]

Imports from Japan, another major motor vehicle producer, also increased during the period by a slightly higher value than Mexico ($1.3 billion increase, though with a lower growth rate of 3.1 percent). The rise in imports from Japan may reflect in part a rebound from a 2016 earthquake which disrupted production of major Japanese car manufacturers, including Toyota, the world’s largest vehicle manufacturer in terms of output.[32]

U.S. imports for consumption of aircraft engines and gas turbines rose $1.8 billion (8.2 percent) in 2017. Imports from France and Canada, the United States’ two largest import sources for these goods, increased by $309 million (6.2 percent) and $709 million (24.0 percent), respectively. Some analysts estimate that increased demand from Boeing and from Airbus’s U.S. facilities for additional engines could explain the increase in imports from France.[33] CFM International, a 50-50 joint venture between GE Aviation and Safran Aircraft Engines (a French firm), produces aircraft engines used in the popular Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320 families of aircraft. While some engines are produced in the United States, many are imported from France.[34] Similarly, Cessna, a U.S. manufacturer of small and mid-size jets, began delivery of its new model in late 2015, the Cessna Citation Latitude, which sources its turbofan engines from Canada.[35]

U.S. imports for consumption of construction and mining equipment increased $1.7 billion (13.4 percent) in 2017. Japan ($4.1 billion), Germany ($2.0 billion), and China ($1.5 billion) were the three largest import sources, accounting for 51.7 percent of total U.S. imports of construction and mining equipment. Imports from Japan went up at a moderate rate of 1.6 percent. However, imports from Germany (9.5 percent) and China (39.2 percent) rose much more strongly. The U.S. construction industry experienced stable growth in 2017 and is expected to continue to grow over the next few years due to projected infrastructure and modernization investment programs.[36] Germany, as a major supplier of construction and mining equipment, increased exports to the United States in light of U.S. infrastructure and modernization spending.[37] Like Germany, China is also a major producer of construction and mining equipment; China increased exports to supply the U.S. market with less expensive equipment.[38]

U.S. imports of motor vehicle parts experienced the largest decrease of any category of transportation equipment in 2017. Imports fell from $82.2 billion in 2016 to $81.5 billion in 2017 (0.8 percent). The largest source of U.S. imports for consumption of motor vehicle parts was Mexico ($35.8 billion), accounting for 43.9 percent of total U.S. imports of the category. These imports dipped by $168 million, contributing to the overall decline in U.S. imports of the category in 2017. Despite an overall decrease in U.S. imports of motor vehicle parts, U.S. imports from China increased by $222 million (2.2 percent), making it the second-largest import source to the United States. This modest increase is partially explained by the 47.7 percent increase in U.S. motor vehicle imports from China. It was, however, ultimately overshadowed by decreasing imports of motor vehicles parts from Canada. Imports from Canada, the third-largest supplier of motor vehicle parts to the United States in 2017, decreased by $380 million (3.8 percent) in 2017.

 

[1] As appropriate, this section will address total exports, domestic exports, and re-exports. Re-exports are goods that have been imported to the United States and, then—either without change or with minimal processing, refinement, or manufacture—are exported.  

[2] Re-exports, which represented 10.5 percent of total exports, increased 10.1 percent from $30.9 billion in 2016 to $34.0 billion in 2017. This explains why U.S. domestic exports experienced a smaller percentage increase than total exports did.

[3] This excludes internal combustion piston engines for the use in aircraft.

[4] In 2017, U.S. exports of transportation equipment to Canada were $70.3 billion; to Mexico, $34.6 billion; and to China, $30.8 billion.

[5] Lyu, “Boeing Bets China Will Need $1.1 Trillion in Planes,” September 6, 2017.  

[6] Chandran, “China Will Be Middle-Income by 2030,” November 2, 2016.

[7] The internal combustion piston engine category classified within transportation equipment (commodity group TE002) excludes engines designated for aircraft.

[8] Ford, “Cleveland Engine Plant Gets $145 Million Upgrade,” February 26, 2016.

[9] Ford, “Ford Cleveland Engine Plant Begins Production,” March 6, 2015.

[10] Burden, “GM to Invest $552M into 4 U.S. Plants,” December 14, 2016; General Motors, “About Tonawanda Engine,” March 14, 2018.

[11] Statistics Canada, “Canadian International Merchandise Trade: Annual Review, 2017,” June 6, 2018.

[12] Lower production in 2015 and 2016 was partly caused by China’s economic slowdown, which impacted various industries (including automobiles), and partly by government policies targeting commercial vehicle production. Gordon, “Which Industries Will Be Hit Hardest by China’s Slowdown?” January 20, 2016; PRNewswire, “China Commercial Vehicle Industry Report,” February 9, 2018; OICA, “2014 Production Statistics: By Country”; OICA, “2015 Production Statistics: By Country”; OICA, “2016 Production Statistics: By Country”; OICA, “2017 Production Statistics: By Country” (all OICA statistics accessed May 7, 2018).

[13] McNaughton, “More than 2 Million Vehicles Left New-car Lots,” January 10, 2018.  

[14] Siekierska, “Canadian Vehicle Sales Hit the Two Million Mark,” January 3, 2018.

[15] McNaughton, “More than 2 Million Vehicles Left New-car Lots,” January 10, 2018.  

[16] Haynes, “GM Cuts Second Shift,” April 13, 2018; McNaughton, “More than 2 Million Vehicles Left New-car Lots,” January 10, 2018.  

[17] Abuelsamid, “Report: Ford to Halt Missouri Escape Production,” June 23, 2010; McNaughton, “More than 2 Million Vehicles Left New-car Lots,” January 10, 2018.  

[18] USDOC, ITA, Export.gov, “Saudi Arabia—Automotive,” July 19, 2017.  

[19] Batey, “A Forecast of the 2017 Automotive Sales Market in GCC,” Forbes, July 16, 2017; Anderson, “The GCC’s Automotive Downturn,” September 16, 2017.

[20] Sturgeon, Chagas, and Barnes, “Rota 2030: Updating Brazil’s Automotive Industrial Policy,” October 4, 2017, ii, 9, 35.

[21] Calmon, “New Year Bodes Well for Brazil Car Market,” January 19, 2018.

[22] Sturgeon, Chagas, and Barnes, “Rota 2030: Updating Brazil’s Automotive Industrial Policy,” October 4, 2017, 35.

[23] Brazil’s duty on vehicles (cars, commercial vehicles, and buses) is 35 percent, while duties on vehicle components range from 12 percent to 18 percent.  Sturgeon, Chagas, and Barnes, “Rota 2030: Updating Brazil’s Automotive Industrial Policy,” October 4, 2017, 35.

[24] Boeing, “Orders and Deliveries” (accessed on May 7, 2018).

[25] The list price for the Boeing 787-9 is $281.6 million; for the Boeing 787-8, $239.0 million. Boeing, “Prices” (accessed on May 7, 2018).

[26] See the “South Korea” section of 2017 Trade Shifts for more information. Waldron, “South Korea to Buy 36 AH-64E Apaches,” April 18, 2013; Boeing, “Boeing Delivers AH-64E Apache Training System,” August 22, 2016; Dharma, “Boeing Unveils South Korean Army’s First AH-64E,” November 2, 2015.

[27] Transportation equipment includes aircraft engines and gas turbines; internal combustion piston engines, forklift trucks and similar industrial vehicles; construction and mining equipment; ball and rollers bearings; primary cells and batteries and electric storage batteries; ignition, starting, lighting, and other electrical equipment; rail locomotive and rolling stock; motor vehicles; certain motor-vehicle parts; power sport vehicles; trailers, semitrailers, and parts; aircraft, spacecraft, and related equipment; ships, tugs, pleasure boats, and similar vessels; and motors and engines, except internal combustion, aircraft, or electric.

[28] OICA, “2017 Production Statistics: By Country” (accessed May 7, 2018).

[29] OICA, “2017 Production Statistics: By Country” (accessed May 7, 2018); OICA, “2016 Production Statistics: By Country” (accessed May 7, 2018); Chandra, “Factory Output in U.S. Declines on Weaker Auto Production,” August 17, 2017; Butters, “Why the Market Isn’t Sweating the Decline,” December 4, 2017.

[30] Boudette, “Car Sales End a 7-Year Upswing, with More Challenges Ahead,” January 3, 2018.

[31] Vehicle types (and amounts) produced in Mexico in 2016 include the Ford Fusion (257,865 units), Fiat Chrysler RAM (246,000), Chevrolet Silverado (222,000), Nissan Sentra (214,709), and Nissan Versa (132,214), among others. Durbin, “These Cars Are Made in Mexico,” February 8, 2017.

[32] White, “Japan’s May Exports Rise Fastest,” June 18, 2017; Tajitsu and Yamazaki, “Toyota, Other Major Japanese Firms Hit,” April 17, 2016; OICA, “World Motor Vehicle Production” (accessed May 7, 2018).

[33] Trimble, “Paris: GE Ups Production,” June 19, 2017.

[34] Kjelgaard, “CFM Confirms Initial LEAP-1A and LEAP-1B Assembly,” May 13, 2016.

[35] Epstein, “New Turbine Bizplane Deliveries,” August 5, 2016, Cessna, “Specifications” (accessed May 7, 2018).

[36] GTAI, “In Focus: USA and Germany,” 2017, 7; USDOC, ITA, “Construction Machinery and Related Equipment,” 1, (accessed May 7, 2018).

[37] GTAI, “In Focus: USA and Germany,” 2017, 7; Select USA, “Machinery and Equipment Spotlight” (accessed May 7, 2018).

[38] International Trade Administration, “Construction Machinery and Related Equipment,” 2 (accessed May 7, 2018); Select USA, “Machinery and Equipment Spotlight” (accessed May 7, 2018).

 

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