Cars.com’s American-Made Index measures cars built and bought here, with high domestic-parts content as measured by Congress’ 1992 American Automobile Labeling Act. But with each passing year, the number of qualifying models dwindles, and at some point soon, the AMI may have fewer than 10 cars left in it.
For the 2013 model year, just 14 models had domestic-parts content above 75%, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In the 2012 model year, 20 cars met that threshold; in 2011, it was 30. Past AMI regulars like the Honda Accord and Chevrolet Malibu have tumbled below 75% domestic content; the Ford Explorer, which ranked in fourth place for the 2011 American-Made Index, has just 50% domestic content today.
Kristin Dziczek, who directs the Labor and Industry Group at Michigan’s Center for Automotive Research, calls it the “global car” effect, where shoppers from Denver to Dubai see the same model in their showrooms.
“Back in the ’80s, there was a lot of talk in the auto industry of the ‘global’ car, the world car,” Dziczek said. “They’re really doing it now. Back then they weren’t doing it. [It’s] the consolidation of platforms, and the fact that we’ve got the same vehicle being sold in most advanced markets.”
Content Down, Manufacturing Up
That sets the stage for truly global cars, ranging from the Ford Focus to the Chevrolet Cruze. Both compacts are sold on multiple continents, and even their U.S. versions have less than 60% domestic-parts content today. Even “homegrown” cars marketed primarily to Americans may not be as domestic as you think. The Chevrolet Camaro is built in Canada; the 2014 Ford Mustang has a modest 65% domestic content. The Mississippi-built Nissan Titan, originally conceived to challenge Detroit’s full-size pickups, has just 50% domestic content. Chrysler assembles both its “imported from Detroit” 300 sedan and Town & Country minivan in Canada. (In fairness, Chrysler does base a higher percentage of its global workforce — 85% — in the U.S., which is more than any other major automaker, the Detroit Three-backed American Automotive Policy Council argues.)