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2021 Cars.com American-Made Index: What About the Least American Cars?

21-ami-least-american.jpg Cars.com illustration by Paul Dolan

Automakers currently sell 344 models in the U.S. for the 2021 model year, with 90 such models qualifying for Cars.com’s 2021 American-Made Index. And one, the Tesla Model 3, topped the group as this year’s most American-made model. Clear at the other end of the AMI is the 90th-ranked Honda Civic, a vehicle of substantially less homegrown credentials. Yet even the Civic edged out all of the unranked cars, including 223 that aren’t assembled in the U.S. at all.

Related: 2021 Cars.com American-Made Index: Which Cars Are the Most American?

Final assembly outside U.S. borders nullifies any credentials a given model might otherwise have for the index, scuttling its chances of landing a spot. So do eight other disqualifiers. For example, models set for imminent discontinuation without a U.S.-built successor or heavier-duty trucks for which key AMI data isn’t reported aren’t eligible. In 2021, such factors knocked 31 U.S.-built cars from contention.

Because we don’t scrutinize factors beyond the offending data for any disqualified car, we can’t definitively name the least American car. But we can name a swath of vehicles with low credentials, starting with foreign assembly. Consumers who care about that might be interested to know this: A Cars.com analysis of some 1.06 million vehicles sold thus far in the 2021 model year indicates nearly half the cars sold in America — 48.1% — are assembled abroad.

Some of those models might surprise you.

  • GM’s Buick division has the 54th-ranked Enclave, but Buick’s three other models — the Encore, Encore GX and Envision, all SUVs — hail from China or South Korea.
  • Few things speak Americana like the Detroit Three’s muscle cars: the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger. Yet just two of them are actually built here. The Challenger, like the related Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans, is assembled near Toronto.
  • Jeep may have the No. 4-ranked Cherokee, but both SUVs that slot below it in Jeep’s lineup are imported. The Compass is built in Mexico, while the Renegade hails from Italy.
  • Toyota boasts a dozen AMI-ranked models, including two from its Lexus division, but cars like the popular Prius hybrid and the non-hybrid RAV4 SUV are imported. The Prius has 0% U.S. and Canadian parts content, and drivetrain components are sourced predominantly from Japan, according to documents posted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  • Similar names don’t always mean similar roots. Some vehicles have separate platforms or assembly plants despite related names. Case in point: Ford builds the podium-ranked Mustang in southeast Michigan, but the Mustang Mach-E, an SUV that rides a unique all-electric platform, hails from Mexico. And the all-new Ford Bronco hails from greater Detroit, but its not-so-related sibling, the Bronco Sport, also comes from south of the border — Hermosillo, Mexico.
  • In similar fashion, the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento are respectively assembled in Alabama and Georgia. But their electrified siblings, the Santa Fe Hybrid and Sorento Hybrid, come from South Korea.

Which Automaker Builds the Most U.S. Cars?

Just one major automaker, Tesla, can claim domestic production for all the cars it sells here. Ford, Stellantis and Honda are reasonably close behind, but automakers like Toyota and Subaru domestically produce less than half the cars they sell here. And brands like Mazda, Jaguar and Land Rover build no cars at all in the states. 

Excluding more than half a dozen automotive startups or bit players that are still ramping up, here’s how the major automakers (or, in some cases, groups of affiliated or allied automakers) shake out in terms of U.S. light-duty vehicle sales:

Share of U.S. Light-Duty Sales From Domestic Assembly, 2021 Model Year

  • Tesla Inc. (Tesla): 100.0%
  • Ford Motor Co. (Ford, Lincoln): 84.6%
  • Stellantis NV (Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Maserati, Ram): 70.8%
  • Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (Acura, Honda): 65.1%
  • General Motors Co. (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC): 53.8%
  • BMW AG (BMW, Mini, Rolls-Royce): 52.0%
  • Subaru Corp. (Subaru): 44.4%
  • Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Alliance (Infiniti, Mitsubishi, Nissan): 44.0%
  • Toyota Motor Corp. (Lexus, Toyota): 43.5%
  • Hyundai Motor Group (Genesis, Hyundai, Kia): 36.1%
  • Daimler AG (Mercedes-Benz, Freightliner*): 34.4%
  • Volkswagen AG (Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, Volkswagen): 22.7%
  • Zhejiang-Geely Holding Group Co. Ltd. (Lotus, Polestar, Volvo): 8.6%
  • Mazda Motor Corp. (Mazda): 0.0%
  • Tata Motors Ltd. (Jaguar, Land Rover): 0.0%

*Only for Sprinter van, under FHWA light-duty designation
Source: Cars.com inventory analysis; light-duty is defined by Federal Highway Administration Class I-II weight classifications.

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