Honda Motor Co Ltd (ADR) (NYSE:HMC) (TYO:7267) is doing its part to keep manufacturing in America. The Japanese automotive and equipment giant announced today that the worm had finally turned in terms of U.S./Japanese car imports. The company statement said it had exported 108,705 U.S.-made Honda and Acura vehicles last year while only importing 88,537 vehicles from Japan.

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Watershed moment

A number of analysts and academics are pointing to this announcement as a watershed moment in the modern history of U.S. manufacturing. “It is an important moment, particularly since manufacturing in the minds of many of the pundits is so yesterday,” opined Harley Shaiken, a Berkeley professor who studies labor markets and globalization. “It underscores the possibilities of the U.S. in manufacturing and as a major exporter.”

The hard facts

It should be noted that overall the U.S. remains a net importer of automobiles. Somewhat more than seven million of the 15.6 million vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2013 were manufactured in another country, while American auto plants exported around three million autos (statistics per IHS Automotive).

Manufacturing jobs have been declining in the U.S. for decades, and while the U.S. population has increased significantly, the total number of American manufacturing jobs has decreased to barely 12 million in 2013 from 14.3 million in 2004.

Exporting trucks and SUVS

According to James Rubenstein, an auto industry analyst and professor at Miami University (Ohio), a big part of the reason the U.S. is exporting a lot more vehicles today than just a few years ago is the increasing global demand for trucks and SUVs in many foreign markets, especially Russia and the Middle East. “They would have to come from here because who else makes them?” Rubenstein pointed out.

Honda has “Bought American” for decades

“Honda Motor Co Ltd (ADR) (NYSE:HMC) (TYO:7267) [has] always been the most American of the major Japanese carmakers,” Rubenstein explained.

Rick Schostek, senior vice president of Honda North America, elaborates on the theme. “In just a few decades, the expansion of free trade and growth in U.S. operations has transformed Honda Motor Co Ltd (ADR) (NYSE:HMC) (TYO:7267) from importing 100% of the cars sold in the U.S. to establishing the U.S. as an export and production hub.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that Honda Motor Co Ltd (ADR) (NYSE:HMC) has spent more than $2.7 billion over the last three and a half years in an expansion of its North American automobile production operations.

Honda Motor Co Ltd (ADR) (NYSE:HMC) produces Accords and an Acura sedan at a facility in Marysville, Ohio; CR-Vs and Acura RDXs are built at a plant in East Liberty, Ohio; Civics are manufactured in Greensburg, Ind.; and minivans and larger SUVs are produced in Lincoln, Ala.