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Transportation Equipment

Transportation Equipment

Changes in 2020 from 2019:

  • U.S. total exports of transportation equipment: Decreased by $96.9 billion (28.5 percent) to $243.0 billion
    • U.S. domestic exports of transportation equipment: Decreased by $85.2 billion (28.3 percent) to $216.3 billion
    • U.S. re-exports of transportation equipment: Decreased by $11.8 billion (30.6 percent) to $26.8 billion
  • U.S. general imports of transportation equipment: Decreased by $89.0 billion (18.9 percent) to $382.5 billion

The value of U.S. domestic exports of transportation equipment[1] totaled $216.3 billion in 2020, down $85.2 billion (28.3 percent) from 2019.[2] The transportation equipment sector recorded the largest drop across the 10 merchandise sectors covered in this report, accounting for 44.5 percent of the total decline in exports from 2019–20. U.S. transportation equipment exports to all leading markets also declined. Canada, Mexico, Germany, and China, which were the top four destinations for U.S. exports of transportation equipment in 2020, accounted for $110.6 billion (45.5 percent) of U.S. exports (table TE.1).[3] Due to a larger decline in exports to China, Germany became the third-largest market for U.S. transportation equipment in 2020, while China dropped to fourth. Decreases in exports of transportation equipment, by value, were led by aircraft, spacecraft, and related equipment, followed by motor vehicles, and certain motor vehicles parts (table TE.1).

The value of U.S. general imports of transportation equipment totaled $382.5 billion in 2020, dropping $89.0 billion (18.9 percent) from 2019. The transportation equipment sector recorded the largest absolute decline across the 10 merchandise sectors covered in this report, accounting for 56.4 percent of the total decline of imports from 2019–20. U.S. transportation equipment imports declined from all leading suppliers. Mexico, Japan, and Canada, which were the three largest U.S. suppliers of transportation equipment in 2020, accounted for $222.2 billion (58.1 percent) of U.S. imports.[4] Due to a larger decline in imports from Canada, Japan became the second-largest supplier to the United States of transportation equipment in 2020, while Canada dropped to third. Motor vehicles accounted for nearly half (49.4 percent) of the decline in imports from 2019 to 2020. Primary cells and batteries and electric storage batteries and powersport vehicles were the only two digests that experienced increases in imports in 2020 (table TE.2).[5]

The transportation equipment sector experienced large declines in both exports and imports in 2020, and these declines are likely a result of both supply and demand factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic. On the demand side, pandemic-related lockdowns led to sharply lower business and consumer demand for products of certain sector digests, particularly motor vehicles and aircraft. On the supply side, closed factories and various lockdown periods had far-ranging impacts, some of which continued into 2021. Even after factories reopened and production resumed, many transportation industries faced shortages of key inputs because of pandemic-related transportation and supply chain disruptions.[6]

U.S. Domestic Exports

U.S. transportation equipment exports decreased in value across all digests from 2019 to 2020. The largest decline in value, accounting for more than half of the overall decline, was the aircraft digest, which fell $48.7 billion. The second-largest decline was motor vehicles (which decreased by $14.3 billion), followed by motor vehicle parts, internal combustion piston engines, and construction and mining equipment (table TE.1).

U.S. exports of aircraft, spacecraft, and related equipment (the largest transportation equipment digest, by value) declined 41.2 percent, from $118.2 billion in 2019 to $69.5 billion in 2020 (table TE.1). The largest five export destinations for the aircraft digest in 2020 were Germany ($6.5 billion), France ($6.1 billion), Canada ($5.8 billion), United Kingdom ($5.3 billion), and Japan ($4.6 billion). China fell from the second-largest export destination to the sixth largest in 2020, with exports to China declining $5.9 billion (59.7 percent). This 2020 decline followed a 2019 decline in exports ($5.8 billion or 4.7 percent), a year in which Boeing cut its 737 Max production by 20 percent following two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia in 2018 and 2019 respectively, leading to civilian aviation authorities around the world suspending certification of the aircraft.[7] This cut in production was furthered in December 2019 when Boeing announced that it would temporarily shut down 737 Max production in January 2020 while the crashes underwent further investigation.[8] These problems were compounded by the sharp drop in demand for air travel during 2020 due to the pandemic, causing airlines around the world to cancel flights and cancel or delay orders for new aircraft.[9] Moreover, Boeing suffered further problems in the latter half of 2020, as inspections stemming from production problems delayed deliveries of the company’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft.[10] In total, Boeing delivered only 157 aircraft in 2020, the lowest in 43 years and nearly 60 percent fewer than in 2019.[11]

U.S. exports of motor vehicles, certain motor vehicle parts, and internal combustion piston engines were three of the top four transportation equipment digests in terms of U.S. exports by value. Exports of motor vehicles declined by $14.3 billion (19.3 percent), decreasing from $73.9 billion in 2019 to $59.7 billion in 2020, and this decline is due to a sharp decrease in production and sales of U.S. light vehicles in 2020.[12] Canada continued to be the largest market for U.S. motor vehicle exports, as it has been since 2016. In 2020, U.S. exports to Canada were $22.6 billion (37.8 percent), followed by Germany ($6.7 billion or 11.3 percent). Exports to Canada decreased by $7.6 billion (25.3 percent), from $30.2 billion in 2019 to $22.6 billion in 2020. The decrease in the value of exports to Canada accounted for 53.5 percent of the total decline of exports of motor vehicles (table TE.1).

U.S. motor vehicle production and sales paralleled the decline in global sales. U.S. light vehicle production declined by nearly 68.5 percent year-over-year during March-May 2020 as a result of vehicle and parts producers largely shutting down their U.S. production facilities during this period.[13] In April, domestic production of motor vehicles was down nearly 99.2 percent compared to April 2019.[14] Production resumed in the second half of the year as COVID-19 restrictions were lifted and demand for vehicles rebounded, but the earlier disruptions left dealers without vehicles needed to satisfy consumer demand, and vehicle producers raced to boost production. Shortages of motor vehicle parts, however, hampered plans to quickly increase production.[15] In total, U.S. vehicle production dropped by 22.7 percent in 2020, which was a larger decline than the global average of 16 percent.[16] U.S. vehicle sales also declined 15.2 percent year-over-year, from about 17 million sales in 2019 to 14 million in 2020.[17]

U.S. exports of the certain motor vehicle parts digest experienced the third-largest decrease in 2020, declining by $8.7 billion (22.6 percent) from $38.2 billion in 2019 to $29.6 billion in 2020. Moreover, U.S. exports of internal combustion piston engines, other than for aircraft (the fourth transportation equipment digest, by value) declined by $3.3 billion (16.0 percent), from $20.7 billion in 2019 to $17.4 billion in 2020 (table TE.1). For both digests, the leading destinations of exports were Mexico, Canada, and China. For Canada and Mexico, in addition to shared borders, which lower trade costs, the size of automotive trade between United States, Canada, and Mexico mainly stems from the deep integration of the North American automotive supply chain.[18] China, as the world’s largest vehicle manufacturer, is the third-largest destination, after Canada and Mexico, for U.S. exports of certain motor vehicle parts and internal combustion piston engines, other than for aircraft. All of the previously mentioned factors negatively impacting the motor vehicle industry have spillover effects for motor vehicle parts as well, which caused total demand for motor vehicle parts to decline significantly compared to previous years.[19]

U.S. exports of construction and mining equipment declined by $3.6 billion (25.1 percent), from $14.3 billion in 2019 to $10.7 billion in 2020.[20] Canada was the leading export destination of U.S. construction and mining equipment at $2.7 billion in exports, followed by Australia ($1.5 billion) and Mexico ($1.0 billion). U.S. exports of qualifying construction and mining equipment enter Canada, Mexico, and Australia duty free under free trade agreements between the United States and these countries.[21] While U.S. exports of construction and mining equipment to Canada and Mexico declined, U.S. exports of such equipment to Australia rose by $180.5 million in 2020. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in decreased production in many industries, Australia’s mining sector was less impacted by lockdown measures due to the geographic isolation and mining working sites in remote areas.[22] Australia’s mining sector, the largest sector by share of total Australian national GDP, was declared by the Australian government as an essential industry.[23] These factors, as well as newly discovered mineral deposits, likely bolstered demand for such equipment.[24]

U.S. General Imports

U.S. imports of transportation equipment declined by $89.0 billion (18.9 percent) in 2020, totaling $382.5 billion. The largest declines in the transportation equipment sector occurred in the motor vehicles digest (down $44.0 billion), certain motor vehicle parts (down $12.6 billion), and aircraft engines and gas turbines (down $11.0 billion). Imports increased in only two transportation digests in 2020: primary cells and batteries and electric storage batteries (up $1.3 billion); and powersport vehicles (up $223 million) (table TE.2).

U.S. imports of motor vehicles (the largest transportation equipment digest, by value) fell 20.2 percent, from $217.5 billion in 2019 to $173.5 billion in 2020. This decline accounted for nearly half (49.4 percent) of the total decline in the imports of transportation equipment. Before 2020, imports of motor vehicles had increased steadily from $200.7 billion in 2016 to $217.5 billion in 2019. Mexico was the leading source of U.S. motor vehicle imports in 2020, accounting for $56.8 billion (32.9 percent) of the total, followed by Japan ($32.6 billion or 18.9 percent), and Canada ($31.4 billion or 18.2 percent). In 2020, U.S. motor vehicle imports fell from Mexico by $14.8 billion (20.7 percent), Japan by $7.3 billion (18.3 percent), and Canada by $11.4 billion (26.6 percent). These top three suppliers accounted for 69.6 percent of U.S. total motor vehicle imports, and for 76.4 percent of the decline in 2020.

Similar to exports, the decline in U.S. imports of motor vehicles was due to the sharp drop in demand amid the COVID-19 outbreak as well as the temporary halting of global motor vehicle production and later parts shortages.[25] For the month of April 2020, year-to-date imports were down $10.4 billion for light vehicles compared with April 2019, and imports in the month of May 2020 alone were down $13.9 billion compared to the previous year.[26] Even as production began to resume in mid-May 2020, automakers experienced various other challenges throughout the year. These challenges included various parts shortages and, more so later in the year, the global semiconductor chip shortage which caused multiple automotive manufacturers to halt or slow vehicle production near the end of the year and into 2021.[27]

The motor vehicle parts digest experienced the second largest decrease with U.S. imports of these products declining $12.6 billion (14.2 percent), from $88.7 billion in 2019 to $76.1 billion in 2020. Mexico supplied $34.4 billion (45.2 percent) of these imports in 2020, followed by China ($8.9 billion or 11.7 percent) and Canada ($8.4 billion or 11.1 percent). U.S. imports of these goods decreased from all three of these countries: those from Mexico decreased by $5.4 billion (13.5 percent), from China $1.6 billion (15.3 percent), and from Canada, by $1.5 billion (15.5 percent). In April, year-to-date imports of motor vehicle parts were down $6.9 billion compared with 2019 and imports in the month of May alone were down $8.7 billion compared to the previous year.[28] Total motor vehicle production in United States was down 22.7 percent.[29]

The decline in U.S. imports in the aircraft engines and gas turbines digest and the aircraft, spacecraft, and related equipment digest were the third and fourth largest declines, respectively. U.S. imports of aircraft engines and gas turbines decreased by $11.0 billion (35.5 percent), from $30.9 billion in 2019 to $19.9 billion in 2020. Similarly, imports of the aircraft digest declined $7.5 billion (20.8 percent), from $35.9 billion in 2019 to $28.5 billion in 2020. France and Canada were the two leading sources of imports for both digests, accounting for 31.4 percent ($6.3 billion) of the total imports of aircraft engine and gas turbines in 2020, and 48.6 percent ($13.8 billion) of the total import in the aircraft digest. These declines in imports were due to fewer orders and deferrals of deliveries of new airplanes on the part of airlines, due to lower demand for air travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.[30] The tariffs imposed under section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 on new aircraft from France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom were also likely a contributing factor to the total decline of aircraft imports. U.S. imports of used aircraft, which were not included in the section 301 tariffs, almost doubled from $3.5 billion in 2019 to $6.8 billion in 2020 (even though the larger digest had a significant decrease).[31] Added to the reduced deliveries due to the pandemic, lower production levels at Boeing and Airbus also played a role on why downstream suppliers were importing fewer aircraft engines.[32]

The two digests in the transportation equipment sector that had an increase in imports (the batteries and the powersport vehicles digests) from 2019 to 2020, accounted for a combined value of $16.7 billion in imports (4.4 percent of total imports) in 2020. U.S. imports in the batteries digest accounted for most of this increase. Such imports increased 14.6 percent, from $9.1 billion in 2019 to $10.5 billion in 2020. This increase continued a steady uptick in battery imports in recent years, as imports in this digest have increased by 70.0 percent since 2016 (from $6.2 billion in 2016 to $10.5 billion in 2020) (table TE.2). Imports of lithium-ion batteries were the largest imported product within this digest, increasing from $3.6 billion in 2019 to $4.8 billion in 2020, by value (this increase accounted for 83.6 percent of the total increase within the digest).[33] China was the leading source of imports in the batteries digest, accounting for $2.9 billion, followed by Japan ($1.9 billion), South Korea ($1.5 billion), and Mexico ($1.3 billion). The top four leading sources of imports, in 2020, account for 71.8 percent of the total imports in this digest.

U.S. imports of powersport vehicles was the other transportation digest that saw an increase in imports in 2020, increasing 3.7 percent from $6.0 billion in 2019 to $6.2 billion in 2020. These imports have also been on the rise in recent years, having increased 43.1 percent since 2016 (from $4.3 billion in 2016 to $6.2 billion in 2020). However, powersport vehicle sales, especially for off-highway motorcycles, increased sharply in 2020 as popularity for outdoor activities increased during the year in response to the pandemic.[34] Off-highway motorcycles sales rose by 46.5 percent year-over-year, while sales of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), also known as quad bikes, jumped 33.8 percent.[35] Furthermore, more than half of all global sales of ATVs are in North America.[36] Mexico was the leading source of U.S. powersport vehicle imports, accounting for $1.9 billion (31.2 percent) of total imports, followed by China ($1.3 billion or 21.4 percent).

 

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[1] The Transportation Equipment sector consists of 15 product digests. Each USITC sector digest encompasses various 8-digit subheadings in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS). For a complete list of HTS subheadings classified in a particular sector or digest, see this data table.

[2] Except where otherwise noted, the export data used in this section are for domestic exports. For more information on trade terminology, please refer to USITC, “Special Topic: Trade Metrics,” Shifts in U.S. Merchandise Trade, 2014, June 2015.

[3] In 2020, U.S. exports of transportation equipment to Canada were $54.1 billion (22.3 percent of all transportation equipment exports), to Mexico were $27.3 billion (11.2 percent), to Germany were $15.2 billion (6.2 percent), and to China were $14 billion (5.8 percent).

[4] In 2020, U.S. imports of transportation equipment from Mexico were $111.5 billion (29.1 percent of all transportation equipment imports), from Japan were $55.6 billion (14.5 percent), from Canada were $55.3 billion (14.4 percent), and from Germany were $28.4 billion (7.4 percent).

[5] These two digests combined only constituted 4.4 percent share of total U.S. transportation equipment imports in 2020.

[6] For more information on supply chain disruptions, see the Special Topic chapter of this report.

[7] American Machinist, “Boeing Cuts 737 Production Rate 20%,” April 6, 2019. In response to the crashes, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) suspended the operation of Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft. See FAA, “Emergency Order of Prohibition,” March 13, 2019; EASA, “EASA Suspends all Boeing 737 Max Operations in Europe,” March 12, 2019. The FAA rescinded the order on November 18, 2020. Flight Global, “A Timeline of How Boeing 737 Max Went from Grounding,” March 10, 2021. Boeing, “Boeing Responds to FAA Approval,” November 18, 2020.

[8] Gelles and Kitroeff, “Boeing to Temporarily Shut Down 737 Max Production,” December 16, 2019; BBC News, “Boeing to Temporarily Halt 737 Max Production in January,” December 17, 2019.

[9] Boeing, “Boeing Forecasts Challenging Near-Term Aerospace Market,” October 6, 2020; Josephs, “Boeing’s 2020 Aircraft Cancellations Worst on Record,” January 12, 2021; Josephs, “Boeing Says 787 Dreamliner Inspections are Slowing Deliveries,” September 8, 2020; Josephs, “Boeing Resumes Production of Beleaguered 737 Max Planes,” May 27, 2020; Gelles and Kitroeff, “Boeing to Temporarily Shut Down 737 Max Production,” December 16, 2019; BBC News, “Boeing to Temporarily Halt 737 Max Production in January,” December 17, 2019.

[10] Josephs, “Boeing says 787 Dreamliner Inspections are Slowing Deliveries,” September 8, 2020.

[11] Out of the total deliveries, 39 aircraft (24.8 percent) were delivered in December 2020. Boeing, “Deliveries Report,” accessed June 8, 2020; Johnson, “Boeing Limps into 2021 with More 737 Max Cancellations,” January 12, 2021; Josephs, “Boeing’s 2020 Aircraft Cancellations Worst on Record,” January 12, 2021.

[12] Light vehicles include cars, crossovers, minivans, sport-utility vehicles, and pickup trucks. It does not include heavy trucks or buses.

[13] Szymkowski, “COVID-19 and Plant Closures,” May 13, 2020; USDOC, BEA, “Domestic Auto Production,” May 28, 2021; Fitch Solutions, “COVID-19: Impact and Opportunities for the Autos Sector,” June 3, 2020.

[14]  USDOC, BEA, “Domestic Auto Production,” May 28, 2021.

[15] Manufacturing automobiles typically require thousands of parts from hundreds of suppliers. Wayland, “Significant Hurdles Remain for an Auto Industry Recovery,” May 18, 2020.

[16]  USDOC, BEA, “Domestic Auto Production,” May 28, 2021; Industry Week, “Global Auto Production Dropped,” March 26, 2021.

[17] Wagner, “Vehicle Sales in the United States 1976–2020,” February 2, 2021; OICA, “Global Sales Statistics 2019–2020,” accessed June 30, 2020.

[18] The United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement (USMCA) requires that motor vehicles be produced with 75 percent North American content to qualify for duty-free treatment within the region. Prior to the USMCA, the three countries were part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), where the percentage of content needed to qualify for duty-free treatment was 62.5 percent. USTR, “United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Fact Sheet,” accessed May 25, 2021.

[19] Wagner, “Automotive Industry in the United States—Statistics and Facts,” April 27, 2021.

[20] U.S. exports of construction and mining equipment surpassed all digests but the aircraft, spacecraft, and related equipment exports in terms of their percentage change.

[21] The United States, Mexico, and Canada are parties to USMCA. The United States and Australia are parties to the United States-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

[22] Casey, “In Numbers: How Mining Came to Be Australia’s Most Profitable Sector,” March 15, 2021.

[23] Valentino, “How Australia’s Mining Industry Has Responded,” February 26, 2021; Casey, “In Numbers: How Mining Came to Be Australia’s Most Profitable Sector,” March 15, 2021.

[24] Casey, “In Numbers: How Mining Came to Be Australia’s Most Profitable Sector,” March 15, 2021.

[25] As mentioned previously, global motor vehicle production largely halted in March 2020, and U.S. production was offline from mid-March through mid-May.

[26] USITC DataWeb/Census, HTS subheadings 8703.21, 8703.22, 8703.24, 8703.31, 8703.40, 8703.50, 8703.60, 8703.70, 8703.80, 8703.90, 8704.21, 8704.31, accessed July 1, 2021; USDOC, BEA, “Domestic Auto Production,” May 28, 2021.

[27] Nodar, “US Auto Imports Expected to Continue Rebound,” February 02, 2021; Gitlin, “A Silicon Chip Shortage,” February 4, 2021; Nicholas et al., “Carmakers Face $61 Billion Sales Hit,” January 27, 2021; Szczesny, “FCA Cuts Production Due to Chip Shortages,” January 14, 2021; Williams, “Semiconductor Shortage Will Hit Auto Industry,” January 19, 2021.

[28] The HTS statistical reporting numbers used for auto parts is consistent with the most recently published list of U.S. Department of Commerce HTS codes, accessed July 2, 2021.

[29] The decline was mainly driven by the previously mentioned shutdowns of plants from mid-March through mid-May (68.5 percent year-over-year), as the second half of the year’s decline (July–Dec) was significantly smaller (5.4 percent year-over-year). USDOC, BEA, “Domestic Auto Production,” May 28, 2021.

[30] According to the International Air Transportation Association (IATA), 1.8 billion passengers traveled globally by air in 2020, which was a 60.2 percent drop from 2019. IATA, “Airline Industry Statistics,” August 3, 2021.

[31] USTR defined “new” aircraft as “airplanes or aircraft with no time in service or hours in flight other than for the production testing and for each such airplane’s or aircraft’s flight required to enter the airplane or aircraft into the U.S. customs territory or to arrive at a U.S. port of entry.” Section 301 tariffs on new aircraft imports from France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom went into effect October 18, 2019 at 10 percent ad valorem. Tariffs that are expressed as a percentage of a good’s value are called ad valorem tariffs. An ad valorem equivalent converts a tariff rate that was originally expressed in “specific” terms (e.g., a dollar per ton) into a percentage of the appraised custom value of imported good. These tariffs were increased to 15 percent ad valorem effective March 18, 2020. See 84 Fed. Reg. 54245 (October 9, 2019); 85 Fed. Reg. 10204 (Feb. 21, 2020); USITC DataWeb/Census, HTS statistical reporting numbers 8802.20.0070, 8802.40.0080, 8802.30.0070, 8802.20.0080, 8802.40.0090, and 8802.30.0080, accessed September 8, 2021.

[32] Airbus’ deliveries in 2020 compared to 2019 were down 34 percent, while Boeing’s deliveries decreased 60 percent. Garcia, “Airbus Cuts Production,” April 08, 2020; Josephs, “Boeing’s 2020 Aircraft Cancellations Worst on Record,” January 12, 2021; Josephs, “Boeing Says 787 Dreamliner Inspections Are Slowing Deliveries,” September 8, 2020.

[33] USITC DataWeb/Census, HTS subheading 8507.60.00, accessed July 1, 2021. Most of the 2019-2020 increase in the battery digest was from lithium-ion batteries; for all other uses (excluding electric vehicle batteries), reported under HTS statistical reporting number 8507.60.0020; the increase was $887.8 million (accounting for 66.6 percent of the increase in the total battery digest).

[34] Off-highway motorcycles include dirt bikes, trail bikes, competition motorcycles, and other motorized two-wheelers that cannot be used on public roads. Motorcycle Industry Council, “Powersports Sales Up 18.4 Percent,” February 3, 2021; Swarts, “U.S. Motorcycle Sales Boom Amid Pandemic,” July 3, 2020; LendCare, “Powersports Sales Ride High Through Pandemic,” August 5, 2020.

[35] Motorcycle Industry Council, “Powersports Sales up 18.4 percent,” February 3, 2021.

[36] MotorCycles Data, “All-Terrain Vehicles Global Market in 2020,” April 8, 2021.

 

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