In 2015, a year when the value of other top South Florida exports were plummeting, from aircraft to cellphones and gold to computer chips, the value of motor vehicles was increasing.
In fact, motor vehicles were South Florida’s fastest-growing export among the top 15 in a year when 13 of the top 15 were declining in value. That is what the data through the first 10 months of 2015, the latest U.S. Census Bureau data available, shows. Annual data is released early next month.
Motor vehicle exports were South Florida’s 10th most important export through the first 10 months of 2015, and thus the focus of this, the last in a series of column on those top exports.
South Florida exports of motor vehicles had increased 7.98 percent through the first 10 months, to $760.72 million, at a time when overall South Florida exports were down 9.52 percent and U.S. exports of just motor vehicles were down 9.74 percent.
The biggest change is something of a surprise: Exports to Venezuela, plagued by economic and political problems, are up 249.94 percent to $146.42 million.
U.S. rank: Motor vehicles are the United States’ third most important export, trailing only aircraft and refined petroleum products like gasoline. In 2005, the category ranked fourth, so there has been little relative movement. Refined petroleum first passed motor vehicles — which includes not only cars but noncommercial pickup trucks — in 2008, as the United States began exporting more of the gasoline it was refining.
Over the years, motor vehicle exports have grown, however. Motor vehicle export growth has outpaced the overall U.S. growth of exports over the last two years, five years and 10 years. The first 10 months of 2015 was the exception: While motor vehicle exports were off 9.74 percent, overall exports were down just 6.52 percent, a figure distorted by the 32.35 percent decline in the value of refined petroleum.
U.S. motor vehicle exports were once dominated by two countries, Canada and Germany. As recently as 2007, the two accounted for more than half of all exports. Until 2010, they still accounted for more than 40 percent. Both have ceded market share over the last decade to China.
In 2013, China surpassed Germany to become to the No. 2 market for U.S. exports of motor vehicles.
Those vehicles can, of course, be U.S.-manufactured vehicles from Honda, Toyota, Mercedes Benz, BMW and other foreign companies now building motor vehicles, largely in the U.S. South.
Exports to China have grown from $308.55 million in the first 10 months of 2005 to $7.77 billion in 2015, a growth rate of almost 2,500 percent at a time when overall exports increased 82.20 percent. The $7.46 billion increase in those 10 years is equal to more than a third of the total U.S. gain of $21 billion.
The fourth-largest market for U.S. motor vehicle exports is Saudi Arabia. Outside of Canada and Mexico, the largest U.S. market for motor vehicle exports is the Dominican Republic. More about that in a moment. A big loser in 2015 was Russia. U.S. shipments there tumbled from $1.36 billion in the first 10 months of 2014 to $226.83 million in the same period last year. Russia went from the No. 9 U.S. market to No. 23.
South Florida trade: While South Florida exports of motor vehicles were increasing last year, 2015 will not go down as a record year. Through the same 10 months of 2008, exports totaled $1.29 billion, or $532.18 million more. That’s a decline of just under 70 percent. That year, which was something of an aberration, motor vehicle exports ranked not 10th but sixth.
Over the past five years, the $760.72 million total was an improvement over the previous two years but below the totals for the two years prior to that.
South Florida exports of motor vehicles rely most heavily on PortMiami and Port Everglades. Just under 56 percent leave from PortMiami and almost 40 percent depart from Port Everglades in Broward County.
Export markets: At PortMiami, slightly more than one-third are bound for the Dominican Republic — the nation’s No. 12 market — with slightly more than 10 percent to Venezuela and slightly less than 10 percent to Germany.
At Port Everglades, slightly more than one-third are bound for Venezuela with about 7 to 8 percent sent to the Dominican Republic and Guatemala.
Through the first 10 months of 2015, the South Florida Customs district exported cars to 144 countries.
South Florida competition: The Miami Customs district ranks No. 15 in the nation for exports of motor vehicles, though it ranked No. 12 until recently.
The large players in motor vehicle exports are Detroit and Charleston, South Carolina, each of which had exports exceeding $7 billion through the first 10 months of 2015, and the Atlanta/Savannah Customs district, which stood at $5.69 billion. Most of those exports leave through the southern Georgia port of Brunswick. Fourth in the nation is the Jacksonville/Tampa Customs district, with most of those vehicles leaving from the Port of Jacksonville.
With three East Coast ports prominent players in the motor vehicle export space, it might seem likely that South Florida would be competing against them. It really isn’t the case.
The Port of Charleston’s primary markets are Germany, China and the United Kingdom, accounting for about 90 percent of the total. Germany, an important market for PortMiami, accounts for 40 percent alone, with most of those presumably sent from the BMW manufacturing done in South Carolina.
Those departing from Brunswick, Georgia, are bound for China, Germany and Australia, with more than a third bound for China.
Motor vehicles leaving from the Port of Jacksonville are primarily headed to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Those two markets account for more than 55 percent of the total through the first 10 months of 2015. In fact, the top five markets are all Middle Eastern, with Kuwait, Qatar and Oman third, fourth and fifth.
Reach Ken Roberts, president of World City, at kroberts@worldcity web.com. Twitter: @tradenumbers
Motor vehicle exports buck trend
October 2015 YTD
October 2015 YTD
United Arab Emirates
SOURCE: WorldCity analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data