Driving Down Gasoline Alley

To find the new heartland of automaking in the U.S., just head south from Detroit on Interstate 75. As it courses through Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, I-75 follows a corridor that has served as fertile ground for so-called greenfield factories, built from scratch for high productivity. This is where GM put its new Saturn plant, but most of the new factories along I-75 are Japanese transplants.

All told, Japanese companies have built 11 new assembly plants in North America, which employ 33,000 workers. The first was Honda, which manufactures Accords and Civics at two plants near Columbus, Ohio. Among the other...

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