That's one upshot of a new report on the auto industry from the Brookings Institution. The report is ostensibly a case study focused on Tennessee's automotive sector, but it also offers a glimpse of the way the entire North American auto industry has shifted over the last 20 years.
The big story here is Mexico, which has massively expanded its share of North American auto manufacturing since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. Automakers from GM to Nissan have been opening plants south of the border, attracted by Mexico's low wages and dense industrial clusters:
In 2012, Mexico produced more than 3 million vehicles, compared with 10.8 million in the United States. Automotive plants in Mexico assemble everything from GM Silverado pickups to Chrysler engines. Nissan, Mazda and Audi are all building plants in the country. And jobs have followed.
Since 2000, overall auto industry employment in North America has fallen from 2 million to 1.5 million — partly because more and more positions have been automated. But Mexico actually added jobs in that time, going from 554,000 to 579,000. Today, nearly 40 percent of auto jobs on the continent are in Mexico. (More detailed numbers here.)
And that trend is expected to continue. "Over the next decade, the U.S. share of auto employment is likely to drift down below 50 percent," says Mark Muro, one of the co-authors of the Brookings report.