After two years of back-to-back output records, North American car and truck assembly plants are geared for a fourth-place finish in 2017, as production falls 2.8% from to 17.6 million-plus from 18.2 million in 2016.

The decline is based on a first look at fourth-quarter output plans that are 2.6% below those of like-2016 and a revised third-quarter estimate that is 7.4% short of prior-year results.

Weaker light-vehicle sales are behind the downturn that will see U.S. output slide 6.7% to 11.4 million from prior-year’s 12.2 million, ending the year in the No.17 spot, right behind 2001’s 11.4 million completions.

In Canada, an 11.3% fourth-quarter shortfall leads to a forecast year-end decline of 7.6%, to 2.2 million from 2016’s 2.4 million vehicles. Canada’s 2017 tally thus would rank No.20, trailing 1993’s 2.3 million units by 4.3%.

Mexican plants, on the other hand, are tagged for a record 4.1 million completions this year, topping the 4.0 million mark for the first time. If achieved, that would be a 13.2% increase from the 3.6 million built in 2017, making it the country’s eighth consecutive annual output record.

In the fourth quarter alone, plants in Mexico have been tapped to build 1,035,300 cars and trucks, an 11% gain on 2016. That follows an estimated third-quarter tally 11.3% better than year-ago.

In their first round of Q4 scheduling meetings, automakers have booked 4,319,400 vehicle completions. That includes a WardsAuto forecast for Ford, which is still mulling its October-December output plans.

The decline from year-ago’s 4,435,300 units is due to 9.9% shortfall in car output that is only partially offset by a 1.6% increase in truck assemblies.

On top of that, the industry’s final July tally revealed an unexpectedly larger 10.1% decline compared with the prior year, while estimated August output trails that of like-2016 by 6.3%. The September slate also has been trimmed to a level 6.4% below year-ago.  

Again, the Q3 shortfall is due to car assemblies having been cut 16% from like-2016, while truck output trails by 2.3%.  

abinder@wardsauto.com