As a result, manufacturers can save substantially by using Mexico as a central production base for global distribution. A good example of that is Volkswagen AG's luxury brand Audi, whose recently opened Mexican plant is now the only source for the wildly popular Q5 sport-utility vehicle.
Even with tariffs, industry analysts like Cole say they cannot envision Audi setting up a new U.S. plant just to provide Americans with those SUVs. And the same goes for other manufacturers.
That was underscored by an announcement Ford made earlier this month. The president-elect sent out congratulatory tweets hailing Ford's decision to cancel plans for a new, $1.6 billion Mexican assembly plant. But the Detroit maker actually did not reverse its plan to move small car production to Mexico. The Focus model will simply be built in another, existing and underutilized Ford plant in Hermosillo, Joe Hinrichs, Ford's President of the Americas, told NBC News.
Other Ford insiders agreed that the economics of that move have actually been improving as Mexico's economy and currency falter.
Despite a series of announcements about new U.S. factory investments in recent weeks, there has been little actual movement of manufacturing back to the U.S. — but for a small axle line by General Motors. Industry insiders say they are highlighting spending plans already in the works as far back as 2014, hoping to curry favor with Trump and gain some leverage in negotiations over cross-border trade. But Mary Barra, the GM CEO and Chairman, said last week at the North American International Auto Show, the carmaker doesn't plan to alter its global manufacturing plans just to please the new president.
Not everyone is taking that position. In an interview with the Associated Press this week, "All the carmakers have listened to this message and will act in consequence."
If and how Nissan will respond remains to be seen, however. The carmaker already produces the majority of vehicles it sells in the U.S. in two American plants. The one in Smyrna, Tennessee is, in fact, the largest single assembly line in the country.
But Nissan also has major factories in Mexico, including a relatively new complex in Aguascalientes where it just opened a new line that will be the sole source of some of its small Infiniti luxury models. Alliance partner Mercedes-Benz was set to share that plant for some of its own models that would be shipped worldwide.
Changing those plans just to satisfy the new president seems questionable, said David Andrea, a long-time, Michigan-based automotive analyst, especially when it comes to Mexican-made products that will be shipped worldwide.
"He's collapsed the peso," Andrea said of Trump, "and you can buy a hell of a lot more now out of Mexico," even with a border tariff.