Indiana's auto industry making a comeback

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It wasn't that long ago Indiana was faced with a dilemma - how to diversify its economy to separate itself from an ailing automobile manufacturing industry.

The state accomplished that goal and is now benefiting from "Indiana made."

Auto manufacturing, which has struggled with the rest of the nation's economy, is making a comeback and Indiana is a big part of that. The state touts five auto assembly plants with 600,000 jobs in the industry. That accounts for 14 percent of the state's entire labor force.

"We have actually doubled our Subaru production output over the past four years. Honda added a second shift at its Greensburg plant and added production with regard to that. Toyota has also, with the Highlander production, has grown and GMC with their truck has done quite well also," said Tom Easterday, Subaru of Indiana Automotive.

At Subaru in Lafayette, the sales of the Outback are up 49 percent year-to-date in August and up 39 percent last month.

"Michigan and Ohio have been number one and number two for a number of years. Kentucky was number three, but we surpassed Kentucky in the last year," Easterday said.

Indiana's ascent may not be over yet. The figures cited by Easterday are based on 2010 sales figures. 2011 could find Indiana as high as number two.

"We are second only to California in Japanese investment, which is something else people in Indiana don't know about. We have more than 300 companies with some Japanese investment and some domestic partner," said Pat Kiely, Indiana Manufacturers Association.

"As the market has continually grown, the vehicle production in Indiana has grown and the suppliers have grown," Easterday said.

So as the state produces more cars than it has ever produced in its history, the number of suppliers - currently at 370 - is increasing as well. Not bad for a state that not that long ago was being criticized for not diversifying its overall economy.

"We are diversified. We have both foreign and domestic automakers," said Kiely.

That has made Indiana the only state with three international auto assembly plants. It also makes Indiana a driving force in automobile manufacturing in North America.

Indiana's rise to number three is impressive, considering just 12 years ago it ranked eighth in total vehicles produced.