Who makes the most cars in North America? Who has the largest auto factory in the U.S.? Don’t be embarrassed, few get it right

Who's got the biggest?

Who’s got the biggest?

Spaniard José Muñoz, formerly chief of Nissan Mexicana, was elevated to Chairman Nissan North America in the beginning of last year. He also is a member of Nissan’s executive committee, and the price of that glory is a 24 hour flight from Nashville to Tokyo, once a month. It’s that time of the month again, and Muñoz took the opportunity to brief Japanese reporters on his progress in America. Executive summary: All good. Munoz also brought two surprising statistics to the meeting, surprising at least for those who were not paying attention.

Car manufacturers NA 2014
Nissan 1,139,299
GM 1,105,187
Honda 974,517
Toyota 902,403
Ford 776,052

North America’s largest manufacturer of cars isn’t GM, or Ford, it’s Nissan, that scrappy Japanese automaker that was given up for dead at the turn of the Millennium. Together with Renault, which had come to Nissan’s rescue in 1999, Nissan is now the world’s fourth-largest automaker. Nissan also is the company that produces the most cars (not automobiles, not “light vehicles,” cars) in all of North America. Last year, Nissan produced 1,139,299 cars in all of the NA, #2 GM made 1,105,187, Munoz revealed today in a proud and voluminous PowerPoint deck, thrown against the wall on the 5th floor of Nissan’s Global Headquarters in Yokohama. Come to think of it, three out of the five largest car manufacturers in North America are Japanese.

Nissan is not only North America’s largest manufacturer of cars, it also calls North America’s largest auto manufacturing plant its own. Nissan’s sprawling Smyrna plant made 648,000 units last year, increasing its output by 34 percent. In doing so, the Smyrna plant pretty much reached the limits of growth, and reporters, always on the lookout for new factories going up, wanted to know whether Nissan will add lines in America. Not really, said Muñoz. Of course he wants to sell more cars in America, but the extras can come from Mexico, after a new factory in Brazil has relieved pressure, they will be shipped from Busan, South Korea, and from, Japan. At home in Japan, a lower yen has made it possible to export cars without losing money. Nissan’s plant nearby in Oppama has two lines, with one sitting idle. It can be cranked up at fairly short notice to deliver the extra cars Muñoz needs in America.