NEWS

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

AMI21-flag-art-6.16.jpg 2021 Tesla Model 3 | Cars.com illustration by Paul Dolan

For the second year in a row, Cars.com’s American-Made Index ranks all qualifying vehicles built and bought in the U.S., not just the top 10 or 15 models. With results directly comparable to those of the 2020 American-Made Index, the 2021 study ranks 90 vehicles through the same five major criteria: assembly location, parts content, engine origins, transmission origins and U.S. manufacturing workforce.

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

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Tesla has the No. 1 spot for the first time in the index’s 16-year history. The California electric vehicle maker’s compact sedan, the Model 3, topped the No. 2 Ford Mustang to lead the index for 2021; the Tesla Model Y, Jeep Cherokee and Chevrolet Corvette rounded out the top five models.

Where did other models land for 2021? Read on to find out.

American-Made Index cities Cars.com graphic by Paul Dolan

The Top 20

Model: Assembly location for cars sold in the U.S. (rank in the 2020 American-Made Index)

1. Tesla Model 3: Fremont, Calif. (4) | Research | Shop
2. Ford Mustang: Flat Rock, Mich. (34) | Research | Shop
3. Tesla Model Y: Fremont, Calif. (unranked) | Research | Shop
4. Jeep Cherokee: Belvidere, Ill. (2) | Research | Shop
5. Chevrolet Corvette: Bowling Green, Ky. (8) | Research | Shop
6. Honda Ridgeline: Lincoln, Ala. (6) | Research | Shop
7. Honda Odyssey: Lincoln, Ala. (5) | Research | Shop
8. Honda Pilot: Lincoln, Ala. (13) | Research | Shop
9. Honda Passport: Lincoln, Ala. (7) | Research | Shop
10. Toyota Tundra: San Antonio (16) | Research | Shop
11. Ford Expedition, Expedition Max: Louisville, Ky. (20) | Research | Shop
12. Acura RDX: East Liberty, Ohio (14) | Research | Shop
13. Acura TLX: Marysville, Ohio (25) | Research | Shop
14. Chevrolet Colorado: Wentzville, Mo. (10) | Research | Shop
15. GMC Canyon: Wentzville, Mo. (11) | Research | Shop
16. Jeep Grand Cherokee: Detroit (26) | Research | Shop
17. Honda Accord: Marysville, Ohio (15) | Research | Shop
18. Toyota Avalon: Georgetown, Ky. (29) | Research | Shop
19. Lexus ES: Georgetown, Ky.* (28) | Research | Shop
20. Lincoln Navigator, Navigator L: Louisville, Ky. (54) | Research | Shop

The Rest

21. Lincoln Aviator: Chicago (24) | Research | Shop
22. Cadillac XT6: Spring Hill, Tenn. (21) | Research | Shop
23. GMC Acadia: Spring Hill, Tenn. (22) | Research | Shop
24. Cadillac XT5: Spring Hill, Tenn. (23) | Research | Shop
25. Cadillac CT5: Lansing, Mich. (18) | Research | Shop
26. Cadillac CT4: Lansing, Mich. (unranked) | Research | Shop
27. Kia K5: West Point, Ga. (unranked) | Research | Shop
28. Ford Ranger: Wayne, Mich. (1) | Research | Shop
29. Ford F-150: Dearborn, Mich., and Claycomo, Mo. (44) | Research | Shop
30. Cadillac Escalade, Escalade ESV: Arlington, Texas (31) | Research | Shop
31. Chevrolet Suburban: Arlington, Texas (30) | Research | Shop
32. GMC Yukon, Yukon XL: Arlington, Texas (32) | Research | Shop
33. Chevrolet Tahoe: Arlington, Texas (33) | Research | Shop
34. Cadillac XT4: Kansas City, Kan. (19) | Research | Shop
35. Chevrolet Camaro: Lansing, Mich. (12) | Research | Shop
36. Dodge Durango: Detroit (45) | Research | Shop
37. Toyota Highlander: Princeton, Ind. (27) | Research | Shop
38. Jeep Wrangler, Wrangler Unlimited: Toledo, Ohio (42) | Research | Shop
39. Hyundai Sonata: Montgomery, Ala. (36) | Research | Shop
40. Jeep Gladiator: Toledo, Ohio (40) | Research | Shop
41. Hyundai Santa Fe: Montgomery, Ala. (46) | Research | Shop
42. Ram 1500: Sterling Heights, Mich. (47) | Research | Shop
43. Ford F-150 Hybrid: Dearborn, Mich., and Claycomo, Mo. (unranked) | Research | Shop
44. Ford Explorer: Chicago (38) | Research | Shop
45. Kia Sorento: West Point, Ga. (37) | Research | Shop
46. Nissan Murano: Smyrna, Tenn. (49) | Research | Shop
47. Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class: Vance, Ala. (43) | Research | Shop
48. Acura ILX: Marysville, Ohio (53) | Research | Shop
49. Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe: Toledo, Ohio (unranked) | Research | Shop
50. Toyota Camry: Georgetown, Ky. (41) | Research | Shop
51. Nissan Titan: Canton, Miss. (55) | Research | Shop
52. Nissan Maxima: Smyrna, Tenn. (57) | Research | Shop
53. Chevrolet Traverse: Lansing, Mich. (50) | Research | Shop
54. Buick Enclave: Lansing, Mich. (51) | Research | Shop
55. Nissan Altima: Canton, Miss. (70) | Research | Shop
56. Chevrolet Malibu: Kansas City, Kan. (66) | Research | Shop
57. Nissan Frontier: Canton, Miss. (unranked) | Research | Shop
58. Kia Telluride: West Point, Ga. (59) | Research | Shop
59. Toyota Sienna: Princeton, Ind. (39) | Research | Shop
60. Toyota Camry Hybrid: Georgetown, Ky. (61) | Research | Shop
61. Ford Escape Hybrid: Louisville, Ky. (58) | Research | Shop
62. Ford Escape: Louisville, Ky. (69) | Research | Shop
63. Lexus ES Hybrid: Georgetown, Ky.* (unranked) | Research | Shop
64. Lincoln Corsair: Louisville, Ky. (71) | Research | Shop
65. Toyota Highlander Hybrid: Princeton, Ind. (60) | Research | Shop
66. Volkswagen Atlas, Atlas Cross Sport: Chattanooga, Tenn. (67) | Research | Shop
67. Honda Accord Hybrid: Marysville, Ohio (64) | Research | Shop
68. Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class: Vance, Ala. (65) | Research | Shop
69. Honda CR-V: Greensburg, Ind.; East Liberty, Ohio; and Marysville, Ohio* (81) | Research | Shop
70. Subaru Ascent: Lafayette, Ind. (72) | Research | Shop
71. Subaru Outback: Lafayette, Ind. (75) | Research | Shop
72. Subaru Legacy: Lafayette, Ind. (73) | Research | Shop
73. Honda CR-V Hybrid: Greensburg, Ind. (52) | Research | Shop
74. Chevrolet Silverado 1500: Roanoke, Ind.* (77) | Research | Shop
75. Volkswagen Passat: Chattanooga, Tenn. (68) | Research | Shop
76. Subaru Impreza: Lafayette, Ind. (76) | Research | Shop
77. Honda Insight: Greensburg, Ind. (74) | Research | Shop
78. BMW X5: Spartanburg, S.C. (78) | Research | Shop
79. Nissan Leaf: Smyrna, Tenn. (unranked) | Research | Shop
80. GMC Sierra 1500: Roanoke, Ind.* (85) | Research | Shop
81. BMW X7: Spartanburg, S.C. (82) | Research | Shop
82. BMW X3: Spartanburg, S.C. (79) | Research | Shop
83. Hyundai Elantra: Montgomery, Ala.* (86) | Research | Shop
84. Volvo S60: Ridgeville, S.C. (80) | Research | Shop
85. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid: Georgetown, Ky.* (91) | Research | Shop
86. Nissan Rogue: Smyrna, Tenn.* (89) | Research | Shop
87. Toyota Tacoma: San Antonio* (84) | Research | Shop
88. Toyota Corolla: Blue Springs, Miss.* (87) | Research | Shop
89. Ram 1500 Classic: Warren, Mich.* (63) | Research | Shop
90. Honda Civic: Greensburg, Ind.* (88) | Research | Shop

*Some vehicles also come from one or more assembly plants outside the country.

All cars above are ranked for the 2021 model year, with assembly locations current as of April 2021. For nameplates that include both gas-only and substantially electrified versions (e.g., Ford Explorer and Explorer Hybrid), each variant is rated separately.

Tesla’s prominence comes just one year after the automaker’s first participation in furnishing the information required for the index. The automaker landed three vehicles in 2020’s top 10, but a year ago, Cars.com lacked sufficient information to rank a fourth car, the Model Y, which was still ramping up production at the time. The Model Y is ranked for 2021, but this year’s index lacks sufficient data to rank the Model S and Model X, as both have substantially updated versions that went on sale within the 2021 model year this spring.

The Ford Mustang landed at No. 2 after jumping 32 spots from the 2020 index, in part due to substantially higher U.S. and Canadian parts content and bolstered domestic credentials for its available engines and transmissions. The third-place Model Y, like the Model 3, held strong domestic credentials across all major AMI criteria.

Both Tesla models are built near San Francisco. The Mustang and the No. 4 Jeep Cherokee hail from the Midwest, while the fifth-place Chevrolet Corvette is assembled in Kentucky. The next five vehicles (Honda’s Ridgeline pickup truck, Odyssey minivan, and Pilot and Passport SUVs, plus Toyota’s Tundra pickup) are built in the South.

Chip Shortage, Trade Pacts

The 2021 results arrive against a backdrop of scarce inventory amid a microchip shortage and increasing consumer demand. How much does that — or the year-old U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement trade pact — affect American-Made Index rankings or U.S. manufacturing at large?

The jury’s still out. In last year’s index, we chronicled a broad decline since the mid-2000s in models with high American Automobile Labeling Act parts content, and it’s too early to see any concrete signs of reversal, or even abatement, in that trend. Major automakers furnish roughly 271,000 U.S. jobs building light-duty vehicles and their parts, by our accounting of direct U.S. manufacturing workforce in 2021. That’s up some 18,000 jobs from 2020 and another 5,000 versus 2019, but the numbers exclude automotive suppliers, which employ hundreds of thousands more at the manufacturing level.

Industry developments, meanwhile, are all over the map. Toyota announced plans in April to add two new SUVs and 1,400 new jobs at its Princeton, Ind., plant. The same month, GM announced plans to invest more than $1 billion to retool a plant in Mexico to build electric vehicles. New tariffs that went into effect under the Trump administration on U.S. goods imported from China will “likely remain in place for some time,” the Center for Automotive Research said on May 17, yet cars like the Buick Envision remain imported from there.

Under the AMI Hood

Now in its 16th year, Cars.com’s American-Made Index ranks vehicles built and bought in the U.S. for the 2021 model year. We consider five major factors:

  • Location(s) of final assembly
  • Percentage of U.S. (and Canadian) parts
  • Countries of origin for all available engines
  • Countries of origin for all available transmissions
  • U.S. manufacturing workforce 

While we don’t reveal the weighting and calculation methodology, all five factors above play a significant role, as do a number of disqualifiers we’ll break out below. Models are ranked on a 100-point scale, with heavier curb weights functioning as a tiebreaker when necessary.

Want a closer look at each component? Read on.

  • Final assembly location(s): Perhaps the most important qualifier for a model to make the index is final assembly at one of 45 U.S. plants that currently mass-produce light-duty passenger vehicles. (We adopt the Federal Highway Administration’s definition of light-duty vehicles, which allows for up to 10,000 pounds’ gross vehicle weight rating.) Fourteen major automaker groups and their subsidiaries run those plants, but final assembly isn’t the only source of automotive manufacturing.

Automakers run scores of additional plants to build powertrains, castings, stampings, batteries and other vehicle parts, and third-party automotive suppliers run considerably more facilities beyond that.

Importantly, a given model hailing from a U.S. assembly plant doesn’t always mean exclusive U.S. assembly. A handful of AMI-ranked cars split manufacturing among multiple countries, with some examples sold in the U.S. coming from American plants and others from international assembly. In such cases, we apply scoring reductions commensurate to the imported volume.

  • Percentage of U.S. (and Canadian) parts: This component of AMI scoring employs data from the American Automobile Labeling Act, a law in effect since 1994 that requires automakers to report the overall percentage of U.S. and Canadian content, by value, for the vast majority of cars they sell. (Among its most obvious shortcomings, the AALA lumps Canada and the U.S. into the same pool, for which we make adjustments as described below.) AALA data differs from other leading systems that rate domestic automotive content, such as calculations for regional value content under leading trade agreements or delineations for import versus domestic cars in fuel-economy mandates, because it’s far more accessible to consumers. The legislation requires automakers to disclose the percentage of U.S. and Canadian content, among other AALA items, on window stickers or nearby placards for the vast majority of new cars sold in the U.S. — though in our experience, not all dealerships comply.

Some automakers report a single U.S. and Canadian percentage per given model sold, while others break out unique percentages by drivetrain, trim level or even assembly location. In such cases, the AMI employs sales-weighted averages for this element of scoring.

While we can’t extricate Canadian content from AALA-supplied data — automakers don’t furnish such information, nor does public data exist to strain it out — we compensate by factoring in engine and transmission origins to ensure two major cost-intensive components of each vehicle are American, not Canadian. Which brings us to the next elements of the AMI equation …

  • Countries of origin for all available engines: The AALA also mandates automakers report the country of origin for all available engines and transmissions, data we incorporate into the index scoring. As you might imagine, such data can quickly become a labyrinth: A given model might have one available engine from one country but another from a different country, or even the same engine coming from one or another country depending on the specific car in the showroom. Add it all up, and a given model may employ half a dozen variations of AALA labels depending on its available engines, transmissions and other specifics. As with U.S. and Canadian parts content, the AMI applies sales-weighted scoring across the various scenarios for a given model.
  • Countries of origin for all available transmissions: The process plays out similarly among transmissions, another required disclosure for AALA purposes. Again, the index applies weighted scores as needed.
  • U.S. manufacturing workforce: The AALA doesn’t focus on labor value, especially in a vehicle’s final assembly. To account for this, we analyze each automaker’s direct U.S. workforce involved in the manufacture of light-duty vehicles and their parts, factored against that automaker’s U.S. production footprint, to determine its workforce factor. 

Beyond that, we adopt a handful of disqualifiers to the index. Regardless of assembly location, these vehicles are ineligible:

  • Models with a gross vehicle weight rating above 8,500 pounds — mostly full-size vans, three-quarter- and 1-ton pickup trucks, and larger commercial vehicles — which are exempt from AALA requirements.
  • Models from automakers that build fewer than 1,000 cars in a given model year. Such cars are exempt from certain AALA requirements.
  • Models set for imminent discontinuation, or production moving outside the U.S., without a clear U.S.-built successor.
  • Models not yet on sale at the time of the study (in this case, spring 2021) even if they’re from the current model year.
  • Models intended solely for government or commercial fleets.
  • Models that don’t meet minimum sales or inventory thresholds. (Such thresholds cover roughly 98% of all passenger vehicle sales, so exclusions here are minimal.)
  • Models for which we cannot verify sufficient information from automakers, dealership audits, Cars.com inventory and government records.

Among FHWA light-duty vehicles fully assembled in the U.S., the above disqualifications knocked 31 model-year 2021 vehicles off the list:

  • Acura NSX; BMW X4 and X6; Chevrolet Bolt EV, Express and Silverado HD; Ford Bronco, F-Series Super Duty, Police Interceptor Utility and Transit; GMC Savana and Sierra HD; Jeep Grand Cherokee L; Karma GS-6 and Revero GT; Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and related Freightliner Sprinter; Nissan NV and Titan XD; Tesla Model S and Model X; and Toyota Sequoia
  • Hybrid versions of the BMW X3 and X5, Ford Explorer and Police Interceptor Utility, and Toyota Avalon; and plug-in hybrid versions of the Ford Escape, Lincoln Aviator and Corsair, and Volvo S60

This year’s study draws on data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, all major automakers and Automotive News, as well as analyses of 406,274 vehicles in Cars.com inventory and in-person audits of 788 dealer vehicles.

It’s worth noting that a given model under AMI consideration includes all variants under the root nameplate unless they’re substantially electrified or ride separate platforms, however similar the name. That means, for example, the GMC Yukon includes the extended-length Yukon XL, while the Ford Mustang includes the high-performance Mustang Shelby GT500 — but the Toyota Camry and Camry Hybrid have separate AMI billing, as the latter has substantial electrification. (“Substantial” is key: We judge milder hybrid applications, like the Jeep Wrangler’s eTorque V-6, as acceptable to fold into the parent vehicle’s overall ranking.) Under our platform rule, vehicles like the Ram 1500 and 1500 Classic are separate AMI entrants, as they have distinct underlying architecture.

In contrast, vehicles with different root nameplates are always separated, however similar their architecture. The Honda Passport and Pilot SUVs are heavily related, as are the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups, but since they have different names, they’re separate models for AMI purposes.

More From Cars.com:

Last Place? Hardly

It’s tempting to consider the 90th vehicle (in this case, the Honda Civic) the 2021 AMI’s loser given the scores of cars ranked ahead of it. And major differences certainly exist in the economic contributions of a bottom-ranked vehicle and one ranked near the top, or even the middle. But we’ll reiterate a point we made last year: The Civic — and any other lower-ranking vehicle in the AMI’s current iteration — still outranks hundreds of other models.

Two hundred and fifty-four, to be exact. That’s the number of models sold in the U.S. that are unranked in the 2021 American-Made Index. By AMI methodology, automakers sell — or plan to sell — 344 distinct light-duty models in the U.S. for the 2021 model year. Among that group, 223 models are entirely imported; 109 models are entirely built in the U.S.; and 12 models straddle the line, with some sales from American-built models and some from imports. The second and third groups are index-eligible, but a few dozen did not meet the AMI’s handful of other qualifications, leaving 90 vehicles ranked for 2021. 

That’s not to say the rest don’t contribute to the larger U.S. economy. We rank cars that drive the most economic impact throughout the manufacturing chain, but unranked models still offer plenty of value.

As of 2019, before any disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, some 240,000 American jobs originated from building motor vehicles, including heavy-duty trucks, according to government data. Another 600,000 jobs came from building vehicle parts. But operations that sold those cars eclipsed both groups combined, with new and used automobile dealers providing 1.33 million American jobs. In other words: For every five U.S. jobs core to the auto industry, roughly two involve building vehicles and their parts, but the other three support operations that sell those vehicles. Even fully imported cars still support the biggest slice of that pie.

And it’s a large pie, depending how broadly you define things. Wholesalers for cars and their parts (think auction houses) furnished some 365,000 jobs in 2019. Repair shops unassociated with dealerships tacked on another 1.16 million. Stores that sell tires and other auto parts accounted for roughly 575,000. Gas stations added some 950,000. Keep expanding, and you could attribute more than 5 million jobs to the process of building, selling and servicing U.S. cars and their parts.

Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

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