By on May 31, 2011

With new compact and subcompact models from Ford and GM enjoying respectable sales, the mainstream media has been indulging in some “feel-good” headlines, like the New York Times’s Detroit’s Rebound Is Built on Smaller Cars, or CBS’s more equivocal Can small cars rebound U.S. auto industry? It’s an understandable instinct, as the media has long battered Detroit’s inability to build competitive compact and subcompact cars, and in the post-bailout atmosphere of redemption, these headlines definitely help reassure Americans about the value of their “investment.” Unfortunately (if unsurprisingly), however, these pieces gloss over the full truth of the situation. Yes, Ford and GM are enjoying improved sales success with small cars. The “U.S. auto industry,” on the other hand, isn’t actually getting all that much out of the situation, beyond some fluffily positive press. Here’s why:

Final assembly, as many know, is just one way in which to measure the impact of a given car on the thousands of firms that make up the U.S. auto industry. Some cars which the MSM are highlighting as perception changers for “Detroit” and “the US auto industry,” like the Ford Fiesta (or the Cadillac SRX compact crossover), are not built in the US at all. But even those that do are hardly any more American than strong-selling nameplates that have been built in America for years. To understand how this can be, it’s important to understand “content mix,” or the percentage of US/Canadian origin in each vehicle. Luckily Car & Driver publicized 2010′s NAFTA-area domestic content mix by model, in a PDF that you can download here.

What that data shows is that most of the cars that are being most closely associated with the “American Small Car Rebound” are not, well, all that American. Fiesta and Chevrolet’s Cruze are perhaps the most widely-referenced “perception-changing” Detroit small car, and yet both are average or worse when it comes to US/Canadian content mix for their segment. A Honda Civic made in Indiana, for example, uses considerably more North American-sourced parts than either the Cruze or its even-more-lauded Volt platform-mate. Nissan’s Mexican-made Versa has more North American parts content than any other NAFTA-made subcompact. In short, the Detroit firms may be selling more domestically-branded small cars, but they’re hardly breaking new ground in terms of selling high-domestic-content compact and subcompact cars… yet.

The good news is that this situation should improve in some cases. GM’s 2% North American Aveo will be replaced later this year by the Sonic, a 65% NA content subcompact, built in Michigan. Ford’s new 2012 Focus appears to keep its high domestic parts content mix, apparently improving over its predecessor by one percent for a segment-leading 85% North American content. On the other hand, Dodge is getting a new Fiat-based replacement for Caliber soon, and a relatively rapid homologation could mean much lower domestic content there.

In any case, though Ford and GM’s sales numbers show improvement in the small car arena, America still has a long way to go before it’s a small car manufacturing hub. Furthermore, the improvements in Ford and GM’s small car sales still aren’t having as much of an impact on the “real US auto industry,” the thousands of parts suppliers and related firms across the US, as the mainstream media’s narrative implies. And the most-hyped cars, in particular, still don’t match the North American parts content mixes that transplants have been achieving for some time.

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88 Comments on “The Truth About “America’s” Small Car Comeback...”


  • avatar
    mike978

    Good article. As mentioned in the article where something is built and its content mix is just one way of deciding if a car is American or not (if that actually matters). Another way is where the company is headquartered and where profits flow back to.

    The X5 is built in South Carolina but most people would classify it as a German car because it was designed and engineered in Germany and the profits from US sales go back to Munich. The same applies to the Toyota Corolla or other cars that can be mentioned. Where a company is based does matter in determining if one of their products is American or not. Ask Ford – they are penalised in Germany because they are perceived, correctly, as an American company. Opel on the other hand does better because it is viewed as, at least, European (ignoring it is actually owned by GM).

    • 0 avatar
      carlisimo

      I hear the “profits flow back to…” thing a lot but I’m not sure it means a whole lot. Profits are a small fraction of revenues in the best of times, and in the worst of times they’re negative. It’s revenues that go towards paying employees and keeping factories open – and they go wherever the company is spending money, not just to home base. Profits let a company open more factories or hire more employees that they’ll then pay with future revenues.

      So I don’t see how a car’s brand’s origin matters more than where its supplies and labor came from.

      • 0 avatar
        M 1

        “Profits” is just a poor selection of terms (and one I’m guilty of when it comes to this subject). “Earnings” flow back and they are not a small fraction. A pair of financial advisors I know got into this argument after one of them bought a Tundra then insisted he’d still “bought American”. This was 2008, I think. They dug into the relatively extensive data they had available and eventually agreed that about 39% of the buying price of a new American-assembled Tundra ended up in Japan. That’s pretty significant.

        Financials aside, design still counts. When somebody says to you, “German car,” you can’t honestly tell me you immediately imagine North Carolina.

    • 0 avatar
      siuol11.2

      Profits do not “flow back”, that’s a bunch of BS. Companies do not repatriate profits because they would have to pay tax on them. The automakers are no different than the big banks in this respect.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      Ford in Europe is not considered American. American owned yes but definitely not American made or designed as the opinion of the average European about American cars is that they are crap

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      So, you care about profits rather than jobs?

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      “Another way is where the company is headquartered and where profits flow back to.”

      In the case of GM, there is simply no profit for many years. Even if they can pull off a quarterly profit here and there, it’s dwarfed by their prior losses.

      So yeah, when a company always lose money and needs bailout, you kinda wish it’s a foreign company and other people’s problem.

  • avatar
    A Caving Ape

    A car is more than the sum of its parts. And a car’s nationality is more than the combined nationality of its parts. It leaves out all of the value that gets put into a car designing, building, and marketing it. And of course where the profit that comes back goes.

  • avatar

    Re: the “profits go back to XYZ”argument, I’d simply point out that most automakers selling cars in the US are publicly listed companies. Americans are as free to buy Toyota stock (say) and share in the profits as Japanese citizens.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      You’re never going to get a UAW card if you keep telling the truth.

      Love the commercials. I think the one with Ford, Dodge, and the Cadillacs driving Subarus was living deep in my subconscious. It is hillarious how timely the commercial with Lido crying that Detroit was matching Japanese quality is. Poetic justice will be when the wolf eats the last of the so-called US automakers.

    • 0 avatar
      FromaBuick6

      Thanks for mentioning that, because that argument is the oldest pro-Detroit rebuttal in the book, and it’s really tiresome. Look at Honda – the build most of their US market cars and perform a lot of their R&D right here in my home state of Ohio. And they’re publicly traded.

      Meanwhile, what exactly happened to all the Big Three’s profits? Or all the money we gave them?

      I’ve mostly given up trying to argue with the domestic fanboys because they’re so in the tank for their side that they don’t care about reason. And honestly, who freaking cares what emblem is on the grille of your econobox in todays economy?

      • 0 avatar
        tikki50

        I cant believe no one has started the union argument. I mean really why do you think Big 3 opened plants outside the US and why do you thinkg Importplants dont have unions? Id like to see Toyota have a union and build cars here on even ground as the Big 3. Thats why they left the US, its too expensive when your forced into a union and your competition doesnt have to follow suit. Its pretty simple.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Id like to see Toyota have a union and build cars here on even ground as the Big 3

        Toyota has a union: JAWA, in Japan. They also have unions in China, southeast Asia and Europe. They’ve had them, functionally, just as long as the Big Three have had the UAW and CAW.

        This is hard for Americans (and Canadians, and to a lesser degree, Brits), but bear with me: the whole rest of the western world has far deeper syndicalist traditions, and yet doesn’t suffer nearly the management/labour divisiveness. This is because you get the unions you deserve. JAWA, IG Metall and such work with management, and actually sit on various boards within the company.

        They do this because they have the same goal: the long-term health of the company.

        The very idea of labour and management in cooperation usually induces either fear and/or loathing in the US, especially in certain segments but it’s commonplace and—this is important—it works. But in the US (and Canada) this lesson just does not stick: management treats labour like a cost or an obligation, rather than as an asset and a strategic partner.

      • 0 avatar
        GarbageMotorsCo.

        “Id like to see Toyota have a union and build cars here on even ground as the Big 3.”

        They did. NUMMI. But Government Motors abandoned it when they went Ch11 and Toyota couldn’t make up the capacity lost so it was closed.

    • 0 avatar
      snabster

      and exactly what did Suburu and BMW do during the War?

      I know, I know. We can’t talk about that…I mean memorial day is, well, yesterday.

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        Subaru didn’t exist until 1953, the year that the Korean War ended.

        Subaru certainly wasn’t a big player in Vietnam, or the Gulf Wars.

        I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        Exactly the same thing as Ford Germany and Opel did: manufacturing for the military. In fact, I think every automobile and motorcycle manufacturer in the world was pressed into building war materiel in WWII. And, no, you didn’t get a choice as to which government you would do that for.

      • 0 avatar
        lzaffuto

        OK snabster, I’ll take the bait. I hear this argument all the time from boomers and even younger folks. Are you a World War 2 vet? Because I have 2 Grandfathers who are. One was in the army and served with Patton. He drives a Honda. The other one was in the Merchant Marines, had his ship sunk by a Japanese sub and waited for rescue as his fellow soldiers were eaten by sharks. He drives a Nissan. If he isn’t carrying a grudge, what is *YOUR* excuse?

      • 0 avatar
        windswords

        SVX pearlie,

        Subaru’s parent is Fuji Heavy Industries, whose parent was Nakajima aircraft. They made more warplanes for the Japanese navy and army air force than did Mitsubishi, including license building of Mitus’s famed Zero fighter. It was a Nakajima plane, the B5N2 carrier bomber that destroyed the USS Airizona (as well as many other ships) at Pear Harbor. After the war Nakajima was broken up into several companies. Some of them re-united to form Fuji HI in 1953.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        Right; we should never again do business with anyone that we were previously at war with. That rules out more than just Germany and Japan, of course: we’d better forever boycott goods from Vietnam, Italy, Turkey, Spain, the UK, and whatever other half of the US fought against your half in the Civil War.

        (I always found it particularly amusing when someone pulled that card when I was in my Honda. Yeah, Honda was a big player in WWII, what with being founded three years after the war ended and all.)

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Let’s take it a step further. We went to war and/or fought however briefly, declared or not, behind the scenes or not:
        Britain, Canada, Mexico, the CSA, Japan, Germany, Spain, Russia/USSR – “cold” war counts!, N. Korea/China/USSR, N. Vietnam/China/USSR, Panama, Argentina (behind the scenes with Britain in 1982), Colombia, Congo, Nicaragua, Iran, Afghanistan, Vichy France, France, all Native Americans. Did I miss anyone? Probably.

        Now tell me where you’re gonna buy your stuff! An OBSOLETE ARGUMENT!

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        “Subaru’s parent is Fuji Heavy Industries, whose parent was Nakajima aircraft.”

        @windswords: You’re blaming the grandchild for the sins of the grandparent? Seriously?

      • 0 avatar
        windswords

        SVX pearlie,

        “Subaru didn’t exist until 1953, the year that the Korean War ended.”

        This was a reply to your statement. I simply stated historical fact. There was no editorial opinion implied. It doesn’t matter what the past was, but we should not forget it either. Your comment was that Subaru could not be regarded like other companies because it had no connection to WWII. But it most certainly does. As Sgt Friday would say “just the facts, please”.

        By the way Fuji Heavy Industries has an aerospace company and builds helicopters for the Japanese military, so I guess the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it?

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        If you’re going by the facts, then my original statement is the one which matters:

        Subaru didn’t exist in WW2.

      • 0 avatar
        windswords

        I will leave it to the readers of this blog to decide on the connection but Wiki is pretty clear about said connection and some here want to hold GM responsible for what Opel did in WWII so more information is better than little information. So here is the complete history via Wiki:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chikuhei_Nakajima

        Chikuhei Nakajima

        From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
        Chikuhei Nakajima (中島 知久平 Nakajima Chikuhei January 1, 1884 – October 10, 1949) was a Japanese military officer, engineer, and politician, who is most notable for having founded Nakajima Aircraft Company in 1917, a major supplier of airplanes to the Government of Japan during World War II. Later on in his life, he would become Japan’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, a position he held until Japan’s surrender at the end of the war. He is buried in Tama Cemetery near Tokyo.

        See also
        • Nakajima Aircraft Company
        • Fuji Heavy Industries (the successor to his original company)

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nakajima_Aircraft_Company

        Nakajima Aircraft Company

        From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
        The Nakajima Aircraft Company (Japanese:中島飛行機株式会社/Nakajima Hikōki Kabushiki Gaisha) was a prominent Japanese aircraft manufacturer throughout World War II.

        History

        Japan’s first aircraft manufacturer, it was founded in 1918 by a naval engineer, Chikuhei Nakajima, and a textile manufacturer, Kawanishi Seibi as Nihon Hikoki (Nippon Aircraft). In 1919 the two founders split and Nakajima bought out Nihon Aircraft’s factory with tacit help from the Imperial Japanese Army. The company was renamed Nakajima Aircraft Company in 1919[1] .
        Nakajima Aircraft Company’s manufacturing facilities consisted of the following:

        • Tokyo plant
        • Musashino plant
        • Donryu plant
        • Ota plant, near Ōta Station. Visited by Emperor Hirohito on November 16, 1934. Critically damaged by American bombardment on February 10, 1945. Currently a Fuji Heavy Industries plant.
        • Koizumi plant, near Nishi-Koizumi station. Critically damaged by American bombardment on April 3, 1945. Currently a Sanyo plant.

        After World War II

        After Japan’s defeat in World War II the company had to close down since production and research of aircraft was prohibited by the Supreme Commander of Allied Powers. This had a severe impact on Nakajima because it was one of the two largest aircraft manufacturers, together with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI). Unlike MHI though, it was not diversified into shipbuilding and general machinery, and so, had to dissolve into a number of spin-off companies set up by former managers, engineers, and workers. As a result, leading aeronautical engineers from NAC, such as Nakagawa Ryoichi, helped transform Japan’s automobile industry.[1]

        The company was reborn as Fuji Heavy Industries, maker of Fuji Rabbit scooters & Subaru automobiles.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuji_Heavy_Industries

        Fuji Heavy Industries

        Fuji Heavy Industries, Ltd. (富士重工業株式会社 Fuji Jūkōgyō Kabushiki-gaisha?), or FHI, is a Japanese transportation conglomerate most known for being the manufacturer of Subaru automobiles. It traces its roots to the Nakajima Aircraft Company, a leading supplier of airplanes to the Japanese government during World War II. At the end of World War II, Nakajima was broken up by the Allied Occupation government, and by 1950 part of the separated operation was already known as Fuji Heavy Industries…

        It currently makes Subaru brand cars, and its aerospace division makes parts for Boeing, helicopters for the Japanese Self Defense Force, Raytheon Hawker, and Eclipse Aviation business jets.

      • 0 avatar
        lzaffuto

        windswords,

        You’re trying to play up your impartiality by posting “just facts”, but it looks disingenuous when you bold statements that make Fuji look like it is the exact same company as Nakajima but do not bold this:

        At the end of World War II, Nakajima was broken up by the Allied Occupation government, and by 1950 part of the separated operation was already known as Fuji Heavy Industries…

        It’s like if GM were broken up by the Government into seperate companies, if the engineers at Corvette and Buick got together and formed a new company with a new name that makes lawnmowers, would most people consider that company to be GM? And more importantly, could you or would you hold that new company accountable for what GM had done?

      • 0 avatar
        windswords

        lzaffuto,

        I never said it was the SAME company, but their is a connection. I don’t hold GM responsible for Germans at Adam Opel building munitions for their country during the war anymore than I hold Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) responsible for what Nakajima did. What’s funny is that even the Japanese themselves acknowledge the connection. I am an arm chair WWII aviation historian. My specialty is Japanese aviation. I correspond on a a number of discussion boards based here in the US and overseas (my avatar is a Nakajima Ki-84 fighter, my favorite WWII warbird). The Japanese who post on those boards have no trouble acknowledging the connection.

        One such member stated in a post that near the end of the war – “Chikuhei Nakajima instructed design team that Nakajima Aircraft will [be] crush[ed] after WW2. The automobile age will begin. Study hard!! (same as my mother) Nakajima Aircraft became Fuji heavy industries… For example, Shinroku Momose(百瀬晋六). He graduated Tokyo Imperial university (Aero technology), entered Nakajima Aircraft, developped turbo supercharged Homare (honor) engine [used in several military aircraft]. In FHI, he designed very light weight 360cc air cooling engined Subaru 360 4 seat mini car. It was a best seller mini car in Japan. We call it Japanese Volkswagen. My high school teacher Onitsuka(鬼塚) used this car. Bad students broke front bumper.”

        So yes, it’s about the facts, the same facts as acknowledged by the Japanese themselves. A few years ago I drove an American designed and assembled car with a Japanese engine. I didn’t think twice about it. One can know the true history about something and still be impartial. Although Chikuhei Nakajima could not run an aircraft design and manufacturing firm anymore the occupying Americans allowed him to become a politician in the postwar government. So I guess the US authority’s didn’t hold a grudge either.

        So now we know the “Truth About Subaru”. Yes Subaru doesn’t have anything directly to do with what Nakajima did in WWII. But then neither does today’s Porsche or Kawasaki with their WWII versions. But it’s history. I didn’t have anything to do with and do not in the least feel responsible for the American Indian massacres or slavery (especially since my family came to the US from Italy in the early 20th century) but it’s a part of our nation’s history. History is valuable for it’s own sake. At least to we historians.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      If you scroll up a bit, you’ll see where a pair of financial advisors I know got into this argument, and what actually started it was that a third party said exactly that — you’re free to buy stock. At first the argument was whether ADRs (deposit receipts) should be considered the same as stock. (They allow American investors to trade shares held in foreign exchanges; so even your transactional costs are split between the US and overseas interests, grasshopper.) But it quickly circled around to a discussion more relevant here.

      This drove me to go look up that old e-mail. They concluded that 39% of the cost of a new 2008 Tundra went back to Japan, only about 8% went back into the economy as salaries or similar means, and another 8% flowed back as shareholder dividends.

      On a $30K Tundra, nearly $12K ends up in Japan, about $2500 ends up putting food on US tables, and about $2500 ends up paying for my swimming pool through dividends.

      Admittedly this is preferable to zero “American content” but it isn’t the grand American vision we keep being fed by proud new Civic owners.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        Yes, but define “back to Japan”. Do you mean reinvesting profits into the company? Because that might as easily go to building a new plant in the US. (Or in Thailand or wherever, for that matter.) Do you mean into R&D? Into executive salaries? It’s presumably not being buried in the ground, you know?

  • avatar
    jaje

    The age old buy American brand is dead – there’s so much global competition and outsourcing of parts / design / assembly it is too hard to tell if that GM is more “American” than that Toyota. I buy the best car that meets my needs for the best value – plain and simple as the majority of people do to. The profits will mainly be reinvested back into the company to do more R&D and make better vehicles. Doesn’t really matter in my acquisitions anyway as I mainly buy used.

  • avatar

    Re: Buy American

    Asking simply because I don’t know: If GM makes $2 Billion and Toyota makes $2 Billion, won’t the difference be that GM must pay the US Gov taxes on those earnings, while Toyota can expatriate them w/o paying taxes?

    • 0 avatar
      Jellodyne

      Actually, the difference is which country’s tax laws the corporate lawyers and finance guys have to circumvent to avoid paying any taxes to.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      On the list of top 10 shareholders of Toyota (as of March 31st, 2010) is State Street Bank of Boston at number 5. Ownership and where the money goes is difficult to track in a global economy since anyone in any country can buy shares of stock in offshore and US companies.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        State Street is a custodian of shares held in street name, not the owner of record.

      • 0 avatar
        M 1

        Actually it isn’t difficult to track at all. Very precise records are kept, and very large groups of people reconcile those records on a daily basis. I used to write software to help them do just that. It wasn’t unusual for a single person to reconcile 10,000 trades in a single day.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      Local subsidiaries are always subject to local taxes (whether it’s Toyota in the US or Ford in the UK). As Jellodyne points out, though, the finance guys can play lots of games with licence fees and transfer prices to direct the profits (assuming there are some) into the countries with the lowest tax rates.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    My dad had one of those little yellow hondas. He was embarassed to drive it around, i thought it was a total blast to hammer around in. What an engine! What amazing suspension!

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Does this chart take into account the production mix of Honda Civics which are sold in the US, or just those assembled in the US? As I understand it, US market Civics are built in the US, Canada and Japan.

    I also wonder why the Toyota Corolla isn’t mentioned, as it is one of the perennial market leaders in the small car segment.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      The HCH is sold in the US but IIRC assembled in Japan. B/c they sell so few HCH’s it does very little to affect the matter. Also IIRC since the Civic sold so well in the US the plant here couldn’t keep up with demand and Honda had to import more.

      Toyota has about 2,800 US employees and sells almost 2x the volume Honda sells in the US. On the flip side, Honda has about 2,500 US employees – so per capita Honda as a Japanese company has invested significantly more in US production than any other import brand. This makes sense b/c Honda was the first import brand to produce in the US and the first to claim the 1M US made cars. IIRC Honda has in the past 5-6 years sold more US assembled cars than Chrysler did.

      The Toyota Corolla is in the graph right next to the Civic.

    • 0 avatar

      No, this is simply the North American parts content of NAFTA-produced models, non-sales-weighted. Corolla is in the chart at 35%, and like the Civic (70%) it has the same content mix whether produced in the US (NUMMI, Greensburg) or Canada (Cambridge, Alliston).

      As for non-NAFTA-built Civics, Corollas, and others, I assume anyone who really cares about buying American would check the final assembly label before even looking at parts content.

      It’s funny though… your sales question got me wondering, and I hadn’t looked at a “US Sourced” market share (final assembly, not parts content) and after a promising recovery, that seems to have gone flat as well [peep the chart here].

      Honda [chart] and Toyota [chart] are definitely reducing imports (although Honda showed some pickup-up recently), and the tsunami-related interruptions will continue to drive that dynamic (as, long term, will currency trends).

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        The chart is labled ‘US/Canadian Parts Content’ not North American Parts content. Considering that Mexico is part of North America, I wonder how the numbers would change if it were included.

      • 0 avatar
        John Horner

        Sorry, I missed the Corolla line. Still getting used to bifocals. Grumble.

      • 0 avatar
        John Horner

        Those Honda and Toyota domestic vs import charts are interesting. Honda has historically built a far larger proportion of its US market vehicles in the US and Canada than has Toyota.

      • 0 avatar
        nikita

        Nullo,

        Somehow, when it comes to automobiles, NAFTA does not seem to apply. I think there was a separate UAW/CAW blessed trade agreement that covers US-Canada only.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Cambridge (and Woodstock) is Toyota, Alliston is Honda.

        I was up near Alliston recently. It’s the only place I ever see Acura ZDXs.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    What I take from this chart is the fact that only 4 cars have more than 50% domestic content. The Honda Civic redo is less than appealing. The Matrix and Caliber are terribly by today’s standards.

    I guess if you want more than 50% content is the domestic market, and a decent vehicle, looks like it has to be the Focus.

  • avatar
    George B

    Surprised nobody has commented on how much larger “small” cars have become. Several models have enough rear seat leg room to allow 4 adult men to car pool together. Compact car size and utility with fuel economy better than many subcompacts of the past. Will be interesting to see if Ford’s gamble to move the Focus price and refinement slightly upmarket is the correct move or if low price wins in this market segment.

  • avatar
    Bridge2farr

    Wow. This is simply over analysis. Plain and simple. You want to buy an American car? Go for a Ford, GM or Chrysler. Prefer foreign? Try Honda, Toyota, etc. Can it be any simpler?

    • 0 avatar
      jj99

      Simpler.

      Want the best car? Get Consumer Reports. Note Toyota and Honda are more reliable than GM, Ford, or Chrysler. Buy a Toyota or Honda.

      But, what if you one of those anti-Japanese types and you don’t mind wasting money? Don’t open Consumer Reports. Hold your nose. Buy a GM, Ford or Chrysler.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        What makes a car ‘best’ will differ from person to person. The Civic and Corolla have an excellent history of reliability, but compared to the Cruze and new Focus they don’t measure up in terms of interior appointments, materials quality, technology, or performance. CR places a heavy bias on the practical aspects of car ownership, and for those who look at a car as nothing more than point A to point B transportation and who find no joy from driving the CR reviews are probably the best place to start.

        If, on the other hand, you are looking for something that offers more than just the basic no-hassle transportation, that will still be very reliable but offer some fun, style, or trim beyond the basics, you would do what many others are according to the monthly sales reports, and check out the Cruze and Focus.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Sorry, but I’ve read three tests comparing the new Civic to the Cruze – in Motor Trend, Automobile and Edmunds.com - and the Civic has beaten the Cruze in each test.

        The new Cruze does not match the Civic for performance or refinement or real world fuel economy, and the reviewers have dinged the Cruze for its interior materials.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        Geeber –

        I was thinking more along the lines of the Focus as far as performance goes, but the TTAC reviews have put the Cruze’s interior head and shoulders above the Civic. If nothing else the Cruze has gotten enough positive press that if I were shopping in that class I’d at least give it a look.

        Things like interior layout, materials choice, ride feel and handling will tend to be evaluated differently depending on the personal preferences of the reviewer. What one person loves another may hate, and far less drastic differences of opinion can switch the position of cars in a comparison test. The new Focus ranked first in the Car and Driver comparo, but finished mid-pack in the MotorTrend test. In Automobile Magazine’s test the Focus was their favorite, but they said they preferred the interior of the Elantra, whereas other reviews, including TTAC’s, have ranked the Focus interior ahead of the Elantra.

        At this point, whether you are talking about a Cruze, Focus, Civic, Elantra, or Mazda3, you are talking about a very good car. It’s no longer the case where the only reason to buy the domestic car is because of price or patriotism – the domestic option may offer something that you value over what the imports do. Just following the advice of CR is as silly as buying a car based on a single review by any other magazine – all of these cars are worthwhile, you just need to drive enough of them to see which one prioritizes the same things you do.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        NulloModo,

        I was reacting the suggestion that that Cruze is superior to the Civic. You were not the first person to make that claim, but the bottom line is that various tests and reviews do not support it.

        Interestingly, the regular posters at templeofvtec were also condemning the new Civic, and were surprised at these test results.

        My opinion, having seen the car in real life (and even sat in it at two local dealers), is that it’s a decent evolution over the prior generation in every area except the quality of some of the interior components. The fit and finish of the exterior – particularly the doors – is improved over the prior generation.

        The problem is that Honda settled for incremental improvements, but the competition – particularly Ford and Hyundai – really stepped up to the plate this time. Until this year, the Civic was the default choice, but now that is not necessarily the case. It is not, however, a bad car by any stretch of imagination. If any car in this segment could get by with incremental improvements, it was the Civic.

        The Focus looks like a small premium car, while the Civic looks more like an economy car. Honda’s selection of colors and wheels is also lackluster compared to those offered by Ford.

        I do like the new Focus. (And we’ve received good service from our 2005 SE sedan – 127,000 miles with no major problems.)

        I’ve visited the dealer to collect the brochure and see the cars on the lot. It looks like a premium car, especially in the Titanium versions. I can see where the Focus would beat the Civic.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      “Can it be any simpler?”

      It isn’t really that simple. My Ohio built Honda Accord put far more of my fellow countrymen to work than does a Mexican built Ford Fusion or a Canadian Chevrolet Impala.

      Simple, right?

    • 0 avatar
      GarbageMotorsCo.

      Chrysler? Does Fiat count? Cause that’s who owns them.

      There are no more “American cars” just like there are no more “Big 3″. Now it’s just a couple of compaines based in Detroit trying to survive as global carmakers like the rest of them.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    The irony is that the ‘domestic’ nameplates would be welcome to park in a UAW lot, while the ‘foreign’ nameplate is not. And neither would the union-build Korean Hyundai be welcome.

    All of which proves that the UAW’s concerns are really more about ‘us’ vs ‘them’, than any sincerity in flag-waving.

    BTW, the Pacer ‘sandwich’ ad left an indelible memory for me when it first came out. It’s all I remember on that rare occasion when I see a Pacer today.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      A friend of mine who is a US Marine that has done more than enough tours in Afghanistan and Iraq to be able to hold any opinion he wants said he’d buy a car built by Al-Qaeda before he’d buy one built by the UAW. He currently drives a GMC SUV, but I don’t believe he’ll replace it with another. It seems the unions are succeeding in defining what constitutes us and them, although they probably didn’t want anyone else to see the true demarcation so clearly.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      “The irony is that the ‘domestic’ nameplates would be welcome to park in a UAW lot, while the ‘foreign’ nameplate is not. And neither would the union-build Korean Hyundai be welcome.”

      I’m not sure what you mean by “UAW lot”. We don’t have any auto manufacturing here in Connecticut anymore, but we do have a couple UAW local halls in the area, including one in my town. The signs in the parking lot say “UAW assembled cars only. All others will be towed.” Now, while I don’t know if they took the transplants into consideration when they put up those signs, but if I were to park there with my UAW built Mazda6 or Hyundai model, all I would need to do is point to the UAW sticker on the window.

      Now, if it is a matter of the UAW plants, I have mixed feelings on the topic. I’m all for free choice but there is something that can be said for supporting the company that puts food on your table and sometimes choices have consequences.

    • 0 avatar
      GarbageMotorsCo.

      “The irony is that the ‘domestic’ nameplates would be welcome to park in a UAW lot, while the ‘foreign’ nameplate is not”

      Surprisingly, you are incorrect. Here is a list of “Acceptable cars”, notice the handful of Mitsubushi and the Mazda6

      http://uaw.org/cars

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Interestingly, I’ve seen (much to @mikey’s likely chargin) off-brand and foreignbrand cars at GM Oshawa’s parking lot.

        I don’t mind it, either way.

        I do mind seeing “Buy Domestic” stickers on captive imports. There’s a guy I see driving a (Mexican-build) Fusion with a license plate frame that says that. Bugs me to no end.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        @ Psar….When I started at GM it was considered “poor taste” to show up in a new Ford. Used, however, was accceptable.

        Your right, today I see all kinds of Korean and Japanese cars.

        Its the same folks that whined, and cried, because they figured us old boys were taking “thier” jobs.

        Now I’m retired, and drive a Mustang {used}…Heck I don’t even kick kids of my lawn. I must be mellowing.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        I’m surprised you bought a Mustang, even.

        I’m angling for a Regal as soon as the eAssist option becomes available. I’ve given up hope for the hatchback, and the Camaro is just flat not an option when you have child seats.

        Its the same folks that whined, and cried, because they figured us old boys were taking “thier” jobs.

        It used to drive me nuts to hear the same guys in St. Catharines complain along these lines, only to shop over the border. Consistency is important.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    The lines of Us vs Them have been blurred considerably in our current global society.

    I’m typing this post on a computer running an OS designed by a US company (Microsoft) which runs on hardware sold and designed by a US company (Dell), which is made of components designed by US (e.g. Intel), Japanese (NEC/Hitachi), Canadian (ATI, though now part of AMD technically US based I suppose), and a smattering of of other nations. Various chips inside of it have likely been fabbed in Taiwan, though the main CPU could have been made in the US, Asia, or Israel (I don’t feel like opening up the case to check the serial number). So, despite the Dell branding, is my computer really any more American than a Sony branded tower?

    Cars are similarly complex machines with parts coming from many nations, and design input for both those individual parts and that car altogether coming from a variety of sources. At the end of the day though, I think we have a duty to support our domestic businesses as long as the quality of the product is competitive. Beyond the aspects of patriotism and pride for the labors of your own people, GM, Ford, and Chrysler still build many more vehicle in the US, and employ more people in the US than do Honda or Toyota. Even if the domestic car you buy wasn’t built in the US, supporting that company helps to support all of the US based workers for that company that were involved in the design, engineering and marketing of the vehicle, as well as all of the employees involved in the production of that company’s vehicles that are built within the US borders.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      The flip side is that if there were no Hondas or Toyotas sold in the US, total US automotive employment would be lower. There are a bunch of car dealers who would be gone, and they would not be replaced by a similar number of Ford, Chevy and Dodge dealerships. There are a host of US designers, engineers, marketers, truck drivers, etc. all keeping the US operations of these companies in business. They would not be replaced one-for-one by the “domestic” companies if Honda and Toyota were to disappear. Trying to add up the winners and losers gets complicated, but there is probably some ideal mix of players in the game which both maximizes total employment and provides a competitive marketplace in which the consumer gets optimum choice and costs.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        I agree that the situation is very complex. Getting down to the root question, I’d be inclined to believe that buying a Ford or GM vehicle built in Mexico supports the US economy more than helps secure more US jobs than buying a Toyota or Honda built in the US. I’ve seen some data to support that, but I can’t seem to find the website, and I don’t remember the source. One of my coworkers has it in a binder, so I’ll have to take a look tomorrow and see if the source is reputable and if the same information is available online so that I can share it. Of course, as they say, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics, and I’m sure there are a myriad ways of sorting and presenting the data to make it look like it supports your position no matter what that position may be.

        The import competition has done a lot to prompt the rapid improvement we’ve been seeing in the reliability, features, and quality of domestic vehicles. At the same time, US based ‘transplant’ production has forced the domestic manufacturers to move more production to Mexico in order to be cost competitive while still having to support the higher wages at the UAW plants. Forbidding foreign automakers from setting up assembly plants in the US and placing higher tariffs on the imported vehicles would probably help bring more domestic production back to the US, but at the same time it would probably hurt the overall quality of the domestic vehicles through reduced competition. There really are no simple answers.

  • avatar
    Steve B

    Why is it shown as US/CAN content or North American content? Is it somehow better to have Canadian Content than Japanese content?

    My car was built in Japan. I like to know that we are continuing to maintain strong relations with the Japanese – it means that the money invested to both defeat and then rebuild Japan was not spent in vain. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to buy an Iraqi built car.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      A better question would be why does US/CAN content constitute North American but Mexican does not? Could it be that the UAW and CAW are setting the agenda rather than North Americans or US citizens as a whole? I guess we’ll find out if there is ever a MAW.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      Obvious. Canadians buy much more American than Japanese as they are much closer. If Canada is booming than the American border region is also doing well. The same can’t be said about Japan

  • avatar
    Freddie

    GM, Ford and Chrysler: Design and assemble your cars and source parts from anywhere you want, just…

    1. Spare me the patriotic advertising.
    2. Don’t take my tax dollars for loans, bailouts, etc.

  • avatar
    DearS

    A time will come when “Americans” won’t care about being “Americans”, as this is an imaginary border anyhow. In the big scheme of things being “American” is a big racist ego trip imo. I have as much in common with the next “American” as I do with the British, Mexicans, or Japanese. imo

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    “General Motors plans more miles per gallon, more features for 2012 Chevrolet Cruze” By Robert Schoenberger in The Plain Dealer on Tuesday, May 17, 2011
    http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2011/05/general_motors_plans_more_mile.html

    CLEVELAND, Ohio — With its hot-selling Chevrolet Cruze quickly becoming the most expensive, least fuel efficient compact car on the market, General Motors is planning big upgrades for the car this summer. Last month, the Lordstown-built Cruze was GM’s No. 1 car. It passed Toyota’s Corolla to become the No. 2 compact car in the country behind Honda’s Civic.

    Since then, Honda has begun selling its 2012 Civic and Ford dealers have been offering the 2012 Focus. At the same time, Hyundai has been increasing production of its 2011 Elantra. All three offer lower prices and more miles per gallon than the Cruze.

    In response, GM boosted fuel economy in most versions of the 2012 Cruze, a car that should be on sale this summer. Order guides for dealers show the upcoming model should get 38 miles per gallon on the highway, two more than the old model and a figure that matches the new Focus. Most versions of the Honda will get 39 mpg, while the Elantra gets 40.

    * * *

    The increases to fuel efficiency for the Cruze are in all versions of the car with automatic transmissions and the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine. The Cruze Eco, a version of the car that gets 42 mpg highway, uses a manual transmission, so GM does not expect its ratings to change. Also staying unchanged is the Cruze LS, the base model version of the car that uses a 1.8-liter engine mated to a manual transmission.

    Also for 2012, GM will begin offering its mid-range LT and LT2 Cruze models with manual transmissions. Again, the company has not released pricing on the new model, but offering the manual could knock as much as $900 off of mid-range versions of the car.

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting stuff… thanks for sharing. Last-minute, eke-out-the-mpg measures do not sound promising, but that lede in an Ohio newspaper says it all, as far as I’m concerned.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve B

      Wow, it’s number 2 now? I have seen a few, but not nearly as many as new Corollas. I wonder if they’ll make a 2 or 3 door version. It’s a shame to see all these coupes disappearing (Focus Coupe and Cobalt Coupe seem to have died together).

      It’s nice to see that they’ve cleaned up their reputation though… they’ve had the same stigma as buying a Kia for a long time (another brand with a cleaned up image). Who’s left to poke fun at? Suzuki?

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        The new Corollas look like the old Corollas. Also, this number 2 number is for one month. It also depends on where you live. If you live in California, chances are you will see more Corollas.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve B

        @Steven02. Front and rear fascias were noticably changed in 2011. That is an entire additional model year of sales though. Around here, I see more new Jukes, tC’s than Cruzes. The new Fiestas seem to be selling like hotcakes though… I see those things EVERYWHERE!

        (Yes, in Cali, but military, so lots of flyover transplants in the area, and a decidedly “Red America” cultural orientation at that.)

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        My guess is that you see many more non military vehicles than military. I live in DFW. I have seen 2 Jukes. I am seeing lots of Cruzes. tC’s don’t sell as well around here. The first generation did, but this next one isn’t doing as well. I have seen a few Fiestas, but the Focus is starting to show up more here than the Fiesta. As for the Corolla, sure it has some new fascias, but that is about it. I have seen a few around here. But I am not sure I have seen more than the amount of Cruzes. I am sure they are selling fine, but it isn’t much of a change since 2010.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    It would be interesting to see this sales weighted. For instance, how much of the Cobalt was US content and does the sales volume of the Cruze make up the difference? Same for the Focus. Might have to look at if the Civic and Corolla lost sales (pre tsunami numbers), how much domestic production was lost because of this?


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