The 2006 edition of the Harbour Report - a benchmarking study of U.S. automobile manufacturing - shows Nissan had the industry's most efficient North American manufacturing operation in 2005, followed (in order) by Toyota, Honda, General Motors, Chrysler Group and Ford. On average, Nissan facilities required 28.46 labor hours to produce a vehicle, while Ford clocked in at 35.82 hours. The results show U.S. automakers are closing the gap, but still have room to improve.

The report estimates that Nissan's more efficient production gives the company a $450 per car cost advantage over less efficient competitors.

Looking at capacity utilization, Ford's plants ran at 79 percent of their potential, compared to front-running Toyota, Nissan and DaimlerChrysler at between 94 percent and 106 percent.

Looking at the bottom line, GM ranks, umm, at the bottom, having lost a whopping $2,496 on every vehicle (on average) sold in North America in 2005. Ford lost $590, while Chrysler made $223 in pre-tax profit per vehicle. Their Japanese competitors cleared (on average) more than $1,200 on every vehicle sold.

[Source: Reuters]