Cars.com’s American-Made Index determines the 10 U.S.-market vehicles with the greatest economic impact. Jeep took the top spot this year with the No. 1 Cherokee SUV, while Honda had the next two spots with the Odyssey minivan and Ridgeline pickup truck.
But what about the least American cars? From the AMI’s vantage, hundreds of nameplates are less American simply because they’re assembled outside the country, a list that includes every 2018 model-year car from Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mazda, Mini, Mitsubishi, Porsche and Volvo. All eight brands have no passenger-vehicle assembly plants in the U.S. — though Volvo and Mazda are building or plan to build such facilities, while Audi, Mini, Mitsubishi and Porsche are tied to automakers that do build their cars here.
Just how removed from U.S. assembly does a brand have to be for its cars to be among the least American? That’s up to interpretation, but many cars that seem like they’re American-made have thin credentials on closer inspection.
Detroit Doesn’t Always Mean American
Detroit brands like GM and Ford build plenty of cars here, but some hail from elsewhere. Ford builds Fusion mid-size sedans in Hermosillo, Mexico; GM assembles Chevrolet Equinox SUVs in Canada and Mexico. The Buick Envision is assembled in China and has an American Automobile Labeling Act domestic-parts content rating of 2 percent for some versions. Jeep may have the American-Made Index’s No. 1 car in the 2018 Cherokee SUV, but the heritage-steeped brand gets the smaller Renegade SUV from an assembly plant in Italy. The Detroit Three’s muscle-car rivalry among the Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang is only two-thirds homegrown, if you’re talking about final assembly. The Mustang and Camaro are built 100 miles apart from each other in Michigan, but the Challenger comes from Canada.
We also can’t ignore the fact that Dodge and Jeep are divisions of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, a company that might be described as Italian-American yet is technically headquartered in London. Does this make all Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep or Ram vehicles less American than the brands under Ford and GM? Is Volvo Cars, now a subsidiary of Chinese automaker Geely, no longer a Swedish car company? Are Jaguar and Land Rover, subsidiaries of India’s Tata Motors, no longer British? These questions evoke plenty of opinions but few solid answers.
Foreign-Based Automakers Aren’t in the Clear, Either
Foreign-based automakers that build plenty of cars in the U.S. also do so overseas. Honda, a Japanese automaker with a sizable U.S. presence, has more cars in the AMI’s top 10 (including its Acura luxury division) than any other automaker. But some of the company’s vehicles still hail from outside the country: Coupe and hatchback versions of the popular Honda Civic come from Canada and the U.K., respectively, while the Honda Fit hatchback and HR-V SUV both hail from Mexico.
Built in the USA? Not So Fast
Even among the 114 models assembled in this country, some have limited domestic credentials. German automaker BMW has one of the largest assembly plants in the U.S., with a facility in Spartanburg, S.C., that boasts some 10,000 jobs. But the SUVs that roll off its assembly lines don’t use a whole lot of domestic parts. By the American Automobile Labeling Act’s yardstick, the X3 and X5 — both from Spartanburg — have domestic-parts content of just 25 percent and 35 percent, respectively. Engines and transmissions for the two models come from Germany and Austria.
This scenario is hardly isolated to foreign-based companies. The Chevrolet Bolt EV, GM’s 238-mile electric car, is built near Detroit. But with an electric drivetrain from South Korea, the Bolt EV has only 20 percent domestic-parts content.
Suffice it to say that if supporting the U.S. economy is important to you, it’s important to look beyond the badge and the factory.
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