How 'Made in America' is Your Vehicle, Really?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
how 8216 made in america is your vehicle really

“Would it kill you to buy American?” mutters Walt Kowalski after watching his son drive off in a Toyota Land Cruiser at the beginning of the film Gran Torino.

The common refrain from past and present members of the U.S. auto industry has everything to do with the sector’s impact on the domestic economy. If you’re really concerned about your car’s “purity,” however, there’s an annual report that checks just how much domestic content went into every new vehicle sold on American soil.

This year, three controversial General Motors vehicles return to take the patriotic crown. But they’re still not fully American.

The 2016 Kogod Made in America Auto Index (a product of American University’s Kogod School of Business), ranks the Buick Enclave/Chevrolet Traverse/GMC Acadia triplets tops for domestic content.

According to the study, which Kogod says beats American Automotive Labeling Act (AALA) figures for accuracy, GM’s full-size crossovers are 90 percent “Made in America.” (Well, North America.) They might be proudly domestic, but the triplets aren’t making owners happy — a fuel economy window sticker mix-up on 2016 models recently forced GM to mail out gas cards as compensation for the thirstier rating.

The automaker now faces a class action lawsuit aimed at older models of the three vehicles.

Kogod’s study dives deep, focusing not just on parts and assembly, but research and development, labor and corporate profit margins. It gives a clearer picture of the impact a vehicle has on the economy.

Second on Kogod’s Made in America list is America’s sweetheart, the Ford F-150, with 85 percent domestic content, followed by the Chevrolet Corvette in the third-place spot with 83 percent.

GM’s presence near the top of the list is solid, and a slew of models tie for fourth place. The Chevrolet Equinox, Impala, Malibu, Tahoe and Suburban, Cadillac Escalade and Buick LaCrosse each contribute 82.5 percent of their worth to the domestic economy.

Surprisingly, the Honda Accord tops any model built by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, with 81 percent domestic content. That’s right, Wrangler fans — the Accord is number five, and you’re (tied for) number six. Brutal, isn’t it?

Ford makes regular appearances throughout the top ten, but only other FCA vehicles that make the cut are the Jeep Cherokee — tied for eighth place alongside Honda, Toyota and Ford at 78.5 percent domestic content — and the soon-to-be-dead Chrysler 200 at number ten. (A spot it shares with Lincoln, Honda, Acura and Toyota.)

Despite its poor showing at the top of the list, FCA has ammo against GM in the fact that the Chevrolet Spark is the lowest-charting Big Three model, coming in at number 66 with just 13 percent domestic content.

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2 of 85 comments
  • PentastarPride PentastarPride on Jun 21, 2016

    My 2013 200 is about 90 percent American. The 2.4L engine was built in Dundee, Michigan (whereas the Pentastar 3.6 is sourced from Trenton, MI or Saltillo, Mexico), the 62TE transmission was built in Kokomo, Indiana and the car itself came together in Sterling Heights, Michigan. As to be expected with any foreign or domestic vehicle, the electronics, electrical accessories and the like are sourced from China, Japan, Taiwan, Mexico, etc. My wife's 2015 Outback was assembled in Lafayette, Indiana, according to Wikipedia. I don't think anything else was made here other than the body itself. I am certain that the drivetrain and major components are exclusively Japanese. Her car is probably 50-60 percent American.

  • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on Jun 25, 2016

    I know my car is the definition of "some assembly required." It rocks a Spanish engine and a German transmission and is assembled in Michigan, earning it the 1 in first place in the VIN. I can't remember the exact percentage of domestic versus foreign content, but would imagine it's 60/40 or thereabouts. I don't need a midsized sedan or I'd buy "the most American car on the road," Toyota Camry (if the ads are to be believed).

  • Kcflyer in a world where Miata doesn't exist this still seems like an expensive limited use choice
  • Verbal Crusher bait.
  • Rick T. When my wife was practicing law in Chicago back before our move to glorious TN about 10 years ago, several of her clients did quite well investing in parking spaces there.
  • Jkross22 This might just be me, but the times that I've driven an EV, I use the brake regen paddles to quell my inner MT/control freak nature.
  • Randy in rocklin I had a 82 733 at one time. It was an awesome car. Good power and great handling. Smooth shifting and ride.