By Phil LeBeau, CNBC Correspondent NEW YORK ( CNBC) -- Here's something few could have imagined two years ago: the Big 3 are once again looking at opening new plants. Take a second to let that idea sink in. It says volumes about how far the auto industry and America's economy have come. And yes, it's the kind of news that will stick in the craw of those workers and cities the Big 3 cut loose over the last two years. So how close are Detroit's automakers to opening new assembly plants or expanding current ones to add capacity?
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In the world of manufacturing, that's practically full capacity.So why don't the Big 3 just go back to the plants they shut down and reopen them? On paper that sounds good. In reality, you can't just unlock the doors and fire up a plant. The truth is, when the Big 3 expand, they want to do so prudently and limit the capital investment. I'd look for them to first investigate adding assembly lines at existing plants. That's not always possible given the footprint of the plants. Another option is adding capacity in Mexico where expansion could happen a little easier. Finally, if the Big 3 talk of building an all new plant, it will be in the Midwest corridor (Michigan/Ohio down through Alabama/Mississippi) where they have consolidated operations in the last two years. By the way, it's not just the Big 3 looking into adding more plants here in the U.S. The foreign automakers are already in expansion mode. Toyota opened a new plant in Mississippi. BMW and Mercedes are both adding an assembly line to their facilities in the U.S.. And don't forget Volkswagen's new plant in Tennessee. This is the renaissance of America's auto industry and it's coming much faster than many could have imagined back in 2009. --Written by Phil LeBeau at CNBC.