Domestic cars don’t get enough attention on TTAC, but we can also be prone to heaping too much praise on particular examples; I may be the lone dissenting voice on the roster that does not swear a blood oath to the Panther. The W-Body Impala, which is set to go into Panther-like fleet-only production until mid-2014, is similarly polarizing. Some adore it, some despise it while others reflexively disdain it due to the effusive praise heaped upon it.
Every June cars.com trolls the protectionist elements of the car guy world by trotting out its “American Made Index,” which has been topped by the Toyota Camry for the third year running. So what’s cars.com’s criteria for the American Made Index? According to a presser
Cars.com’s annual American-Made Index ranks the most-American vehicles based on percentage of their parts that are made domestically, where they are assembled and how many are sold to U.S. buyers.
That last bit goes a long way towards explaining the Camry/Accord dominance: this is not just a measure of assembly and “domestic parts content” (which NHTSA strangely counts as parts made in the US or Canada), but popularity with Americans as well. If, on the other hand, you just look at the raw 2011 “domestic” parts content percentages… well, it tells a slightly different story.
Detroit’s brand managers, particularly those at the resurgent premium and luxury brands, have made West Coast sales a high priority as they seek to bring new buyers into once-moribund brands like Buick and Cadillac. California, in particular, is a huge market for luxury and premium cars, and it’s generally an edgier, more youthful market that has long shunned domestic offerings. Everything from “lifestyle events” to no-cost hybrid drivetrain options on Lincoln MKZ have been introduced in an effort to get California’s copious yuppie population interested in Detroit luxury, but the results just haven’t shown up yet. According to Ford’s Mark “MKF” Fields [via AN [sub]], only about 25% of MKZ buyers were tempted by the free-hybrid deal in March, and meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Golden Gate City has just lost its final domestic auto dealership, a Ford/Lincoln store. Detroit may be California dreaming, but the Buicks and Lincolns of the world are still a long way from gaining ground in the West Coast.
As we’ve noted before, Hyundai and Kia have been quick to exploit the weakness of the domestic auto industry by advertising their American-made cars as American-made cars. Now, they’re taking the attack to a whole new level, as Hyundai USA President John Krafcik tells CNN Money that his brand will build 80 percent of its vehicles in the United States by next year. If the Korean brand can actually achieve that goal, it would make Hyundai’s lineup the most American-built full line on the market. And though he insists that Hyundai doesn’t make decisions about production based on PR, Krafcik can’t help but twist the knife, saying
I’m going to build my three best selling cars in the US. Ford builds its best selling car in Mexico.
These are the ten vehicles that NHTSA says are made from 90 percent domestically-produced components [via cars.com]. Notice a common thread there? Yes, the correct answer is Ford involvement, but according to cars.com, the task of crowning a “king of domestic content” isn’t as simple as NHTSA’s number.