Despite crisis, automakers kept investing

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The assumption of 2020 was that the year would be a washout when it came to automakers making big, new investments in assembly plants. Given the cataclysm of the coronavirus pandemic, the halt in industry production, the crash of the U.S. economy, the scramble for cash reserves, the new uncertainty over the health and safety of industrial workplaces and the very real fear that Americans would be in no hurry to buy a new vehicle, it was logical that nobody needed to spend money on an auto factory.

But things turned out differently.

Despite the early worries, automakers pressed ahead with new investments, expansions, retoolings and undeveloped land in 2020. These were the largest projects in the January-November period, as tabulated by the Center for Automotive Research of Ann Arbor, Mich., for its industry-tracking Book of Deals database.

$1.45 billion
Ford: Oakville, Ontario
Retooling and preparation for production of battery-electric vehicles

$1.2 billion
FCA: Windsor, Ontario
Retooling and preparation for the production of plug-in hybrids and battery-powered vehicles

$1.1 billion
Tesla: Austin, Texas
A manufacturing plant on undeveloped land to produce the Tesla Cybertruck, Semi, Model 3 and Model Y for the eastern half of North America

$1 billion
General Motors: Spring Hill, Tenn.
An expansion to introduce production of electric vehicles, including the all-new Cadillac Lyriq

$1 billion
General Motors: Oshawa, Ontario
Capital investment for retooling to implement a new, flexible assembly module for the production of heavy-duty and light-duty T1XX pickups

$830 million
Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA: Huntsville, Ala.
Additional investment at the plant project to incorporate new manufacturing technologies into production lines and provide enhanced training for its work force

$170 million
Toyota Motor Corp.: Apaseo el Grande, Guanajuato, Mexico
Additional investment to expand capacity at the newly opened Corolla assembly plant to add the Tacoma pickup

$158 million
Subaru of Indiana Automotive: Lafayette, Ind.
Expansion of manufacturing, addition of transmission assembly and construction of a new service parts facility

$115 million
Ford Motor Co.: Windsor, Ontario
Investment in two powertrain plants, Windsor Engine and Essex Engine, to launch a new 6.8L engine in 2022 at Windsor, and to enhance production of 5.0-liter engines and Nano cylinder heads at Essex

$100 million
General Motors: Lansing, Mich.
Retooling for production of the GMC Acadia

$85 million
General Motors: St. Catharines, Ontario
Investment to modify the assembly plant and production tooling to introduce a new transmission and variants

$53 million
Mercedes-Benz U.S. International: Vance, Ala.
Construction of a storage and sequence facility for parts used in the plant’s coming U.S. production of EVs

$46 million
Arrival: Rock Hill, S.C.
Vehicle assembly plant on undeveloped land for the U.K.-based manufacturer of electric buses

$39 million
General Motors: Toledo, Ohio
Upgrade and enhancement in the production of GM’s eight-speed rear-wheel-drive transmissions

$39 million
FCA: Brampton, Ontario
Upgrades in existing assembly operation

$32 million
General Motors: Defiance, Ohio
Additional investment to support engine component casting

$32 million
General Motors: Flint, Mich.
Expansion for production of heavy-duty Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups

Source: Center for Automotive Research, Book of Deals. January-November 2020