2015 American-Made Index: Why Shoppers Care

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As Cars.com releases its 2015 American-Made Index, a new Cars.com poll shows that loyalty to Detroit automakers is running stronger now than it did four years ago. In the survey, 28 percent of respondents said they would only consider American automakers when they shop for a car. That’s up from 23 percent in 2011. Just 6 percent, on the other hand, said they would only consider foreign-based automakers.

Related: The 2015 American-Made Index

The reasons for the renewed American loyalty are unclear. Of the consumers who said they would only consider a U.S. automaker, 62 percent said it was because of specific loyalty to a brand (such as Chevrolet or Ford), while a little more than half said they wanted to buy American to support the local economy. But those two numbers are both down from 2011, when 74 percent of respondents cited brand loyalty and 70 percent named economic support as their reasons why. Respondents could choose as many, or as few, reasons as they wanted, and every single other reason, from patriotism to pricing, also fell from 2011 to 2015.

Meanwhile, memory of the auto industry bailouts remains fresh. Eighty-four percent of respondents said they were aware of the 2008 and 2009 bailouts, when the federal government spent some $80 billion to help GM and Chrysler, their finance arms and various auto suppliers. Seventy percent correctly named GM as a bailout recipient, and 53 percent identified Chrysler as a recipient as well. But 29 percent lumped Ford into the pool, even though Ford Motor Co. didn’t take bailout funds.

Across the board, though, respondents didn’t make a company’s location a primary concern. Two-thirds of respondents said an automaker’s home country isn’t a primary factor in their purchase decision. How much does the country matter? On an automaker-by-automaker basis, it’s significant. The Detroit Three employ more American workers than foreign-based automakers, and they also build the majority of cars containing high domestic content. But the American-Made Index shows that, on a car-by-car basis, the badge doesn’t always tell the whole story. Many cars from foreign-based automakers, like the Toyota Camry and Honda Odyssey, contribute a lot to the U.S. economy.

For some brands, there’s still a disconnect between the badge and the country. The vast majority of respondents knew that brands such as Ford, Chevrolet and GMC are based in the U.S., and most knew that Nissan, Toyota and Honda are from Japan. But just 38 percent knew that Hyundai is based in South Korea, and only 31 percent identified Lexus, Toyota’s luxury division, as Japanese. Another 31 percent said they didn’t know where Lexus was based, and 21 percent thought Lexus was a U.S.-based brand.

Irony, defined: Toyota doesn’t assemble a single Lexus in America.

Editor’s note: The Cars.com American-Made Study of 1,000 respondents was conducted by Qualtrics in May 2015.

Photo of Kelsey Mays
Former Assistant Managing Editor-News Kelsey Mays likes quality, reliability, safety and practicality. But he also likes a fair price. Email Kelsey Mays

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