American-Made Index: Analyzing the Trends

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With the latest American-Made Index in full swing, this week has been a busy one. If you haven’t seen the latest index, check it out here. We finally had a chance to compare this to the ones we compiled last December and June, and here are some of the trends we’ve noticed:

  • Detroit automakers are holding their turf. Despite inroads by Toyota, seven of the 10 models here come from GM or Ford. Expect cars like the Chevy Malibu to maintain a strong position next year with a redesigned model built in Kansas City. It hits showrooms this fall and should give its nameplate a sales boost. The same goes for Ford’s Escape and Focus, which have both been restyled for 2008. In fact, the Focus has been something of a comeback kid. Last year’s model was rated at a so-so 60 percent for domestic-parts content, but the ’07 Focus jumped to 75 percent. With the restyled ’08 Focus set to be assembled in Michigan, where the current one is built, we expect the car to remain a strong contender – unless, of course, that bump in parts content proves to be short-lived.
  • Both the Ford Explorer and Chevy TrailBlazer saw big dives as sales tanked this year — likely due to higher gas prices — and both slid right off the list. Solid sales and high parts content secured the Explorer and its Sport Trac offshoot fifth place in the December index, and the TrailBlazer ranked seventh. As GM phases out the TrailBlazer and Ford buyers move toward the Edge crossover, it doesn’t look like either of these aging giants will see glory days again.
  • The Toyota Tundra is being carried by strong sales of the redesigned model. Contrary to what Toyota might have you believe, the old Tundra actually had higher domestic-parts content: 80 percent for ’06 versus 75 percent for the new ’07. Both generations were built in the U.S. But sales are sales, and the new Tundra has proved popular enough to reach No. 10 on the index.
  • The Chevy Cobalt and Ford F-150 are wild cards. Both are long in the tooth and are still a year or more away from being redesigned, plus their sales are starting to slip. The Camry is a good distance from dethroning the F-150, but it’s off to a fresh start with strong sales from the redesigned model, and the aging F-150 is on a losing streak. Anything is possible down the road.
  • Keep an eye out for the Jeep Wrangler. It was a few paces off the index this time, but it meets all the criteria: It’s assembled in Ohio, and the ’07 model has 76 percent domestic-parts content. If the sales boom for the redesigned Wrangler continues and the parts content stays on track, it’s possible this scrappy Jeep could appear in the next American-Made Index. That’s the only bit of news for Jeep parent Chrysler which, despite being a Detroit automaker, remains unrepresented on the index. The company’s popular Dodge Ram pickup doesn’t measure up for parts content, and its minivans are built in both the U.S. and Canada – something that hurts their rankings.
  • The opposite is true for Honda and Nissan, whose popular Accord, Civic and Altima are predominantly built stateside. However, none of those cars has a high enough domestic-parts content to make the index.
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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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