By Pete Bigelow, AOL Autos
Strengthened interest by consumers and government in fuel-efficient vehicles has accelerated job growth throughout the U.S. auto industry, according to a recent report by a consortium of environmental advocates.
The U.S. has added 236,600 jobs in the industry since June 2009, and a significant portion of them have been related to consumer demand and government mandates for gas-sipping cars. The report was issued Aug. 9 by www.drivinggrowth.org, a project of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Wildlife Federation and the League of Conservation Voters. "Automakers, their suppliers and their dealers are now looking ahead to a brighter future after the dark days of the recession," the report said.
Automotive sales are expected to increase to 14.3 million units in 2012, and fuel economy ranks as the No. 1 concern for new car buyers, according to a Consumer Reports survey taken in May. Research done by Ford Motor Co. supports the same finding, according to the automaker's global chief marketing officer, Jim Farley.
That increased demand, coupled with a new federal standard in Corporate Average Fuel Economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, has driven the industry to invest in fuel-efficient technology.
That investment has included adding 165,000 new employees who build vehicles and parts, a 26.4 increase from three years ago, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. Carmakers have retooled factories at faster-than-anticipated paces, produced high-volume products that target fuel consumption and invested in everything from eight-speed transmissions to lightweight steel bodies, all of which have bolstered employment, the report said.
It's also included 71,500 new jobs at dealerships, as demand for new vehicles increases.
The job growth, according to the report, has been most concentrated in the Midwest. Michigan, Indiana and Ohio account for 66,300 of the new jobs. But the report also found 500 facilities in 43 states that manufactured components and technology that contributed to fuel economy.
The timing of the report comes at a time when the auto rescue is still being hotly debated in an election year. The Obama White House is running on the jobs message related to its decision to commit tax-payer dollars to keeping the auto industry stable when a recession was threatening, while the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, is running against the involvement of the federal government in the industry rescue.
Among the jobs added by a push for fuel-efficient vehicles, the report cited:
- BorgWarner, a supplier based in Michigan, added 900 employees at five locations in Michigan that work on turbochargers, hybrid transmissions and other transmissions.
- Chrysler's addition of 1,100 workers to expand production of its more fuel-efficient Pentastar V6 engines.
- Ford's investment of $500 million in a Wayne, Mich., facility that allows for a former Expedition and Navigator facility to be retooled to make the more-efficient Ford Focus. The investment retains 3,600 jobs.
- Ford's $130 million investment in two southeast Michigan facilities that will add 265 workers to develop hybrid transmissions and battery technology.
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