Irrelevant 'Most-American Car' Ranking Changes Criteria, If Only to Flesh Out Results

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

While there are some who still proudly use the old slogan “ Buy American,” the concept is only loosely applicable to automobiles. While you can certainly support American brands, every automobile on the road is an amalgamation of parts from all over the world — and has been for quite some time.

This year, the automotive research website Cars.com, which began ranking the country’s “most-American” vehicles in 2006, was forced to change its criteria after only three models qualified under the old system of measurement.

For 2017, Cars.com has added country of engine origin, country of transmission origin, and U.S. factory employment relative to a company’s sales to its previous criteria of American parts content and final assembly location. It was also forced to lower the overall percentage of domestic parts a car needs to qualify by a full fifteen percent — from 75 to 60 percent.

“Even if a car is from a brand headquartered in one place, you have to keep in mind what goes into a vehicle,” Joe Wiesenfelder, executive editor of Cars.com, told Bloomberg in an interview. “Automakers ultimately have to build their vehicles based on the numbers.”

Using the updated system, the “ most American” vehicle within the United States was the Jeep Wrangler, built in Toledo, Ohio by the Italian-American Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The Wrangler was followed closely by the Jeep Cherokee and Ford’s Taurus, the latter of which forecaster LMC Automotive believes will move production from Chicago to China after news of the Focus’ far-east exodus broke last week.

The next highest ranked vehicles were the Honda Ridgeline, Acura RDX, Ford F-150, Ford Expedition, GMC Acadia, Honda Odyssey, and Honda — in that order.

While interest in buying American seems to have been bolstered in the wake of President Trump’s election campaign, rising from 13 percent of prospective car buyers in 2016 to 25 percent in 2017, Wiesenfelder suggested most shoppers don’t really care about their car’s country of origin. “Consumers are more interested in the other factors like how well a vehicle meets their needs and how well it fits their family,” he said.

Still, 25 percent is not an insignificant figure and one domestic manufacturers are likely to take note of. Global suppliers may make the physical act of assembling a truly American vehicle an impossibility, but that won’t keep automakers from marketing them that way.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Threeer Threeer on Jun 28, 2017

    I'm still one of the 25 percenters that thinks it matters, even if it doesn't (or at least is really, really difficult to fully figure out). However, I'm also not clueless as to the fact that many "foreign" cars have more American-produced content than many "Big 3" vehicles do. I attempt to search out those vehicles with a high US content, assembled in the US by US-owned companies. Was a little disappointed to find out that my Ford Escape does not beat with an American heart (engine foreign). Still, I try. And many of the clothes I wear I purchase from places like All-American clothing. Same goes for appliances in the house (that I source them from an American manufacturer, assembled at least in America). Maybe I'm too "get offa my lawn" old and stuck in my desire to support my country, but there it is. I realize that a vast number (75%, apparently) of Americans don't really give a rat's butt where their cars are made...but I'm guessing if one of their family lost a job related to auto assembly, they just might. Then again...GM is selling Envisions and Ford is soon to bring the Focus over from China, so what do I know?

    • Freddie Freddie on Jun 28, 2017

      When I go car shopping, I am rooting for the home team. I HOPE that the car I like the best turns out to be American (however you measure "American"), but I am still going to buy the car I like best regardless of where it's made.

  • Freddie Freddie on Jun 28, 2017

    As an engineer, I'd be interested in knowing the domestic "design content" of each vehicle. Anyone know where that kind of data might be available?

  • Kosmo Love it. Can I get one with something other than Subaru's flat four?
  • M B When the NorthStar happened, it was a part of GM's "rebuilding" of the Cadillac brand. Money to finance it was shuffled from Oldsmobile, which resulted in Olds having to only facelift its products, which BEGAN its slide down the mountain. Olds stagnated in product and appearances.First time I looked at the GM Parts illustration of a NorthStar V-8, I was impressed AND immediately saw the many things that were expensive, costly to produce, and could have been done less expensively. I saw it as an expensive disaster getting ready to happen. Way too much over-kill for the typical Cadillac owner of the time.Even so, there were a few areas where cost-cutting seemed to exist. The production gasket/seal between the main bearing plate and the block was not substantial enough to prevent seeps. At the time, about $1500.00 to fix.In many ways, the NS engine was designed to make far more power than it did. I ran across an article on a man who was building kits to put the NS in Chevy S-10 pickups. With his home-built 4bbl intake and a 600cfm Holley 4bbl, suddenly . . . 400 horsepower resulted. Seems the low hood line resulted in manifolding compromises which decreased the production power levels.GM was seeking to out-do its foreign competitors with the NS design and execution. In many ways they did, just that FEW people noticed.
  • Redapple2 Do Hybrids and be done with it.
  • Redapple2 Panamera = road porn.
  • Akear What an absurd strategy. They are basically giving up after all these years. When a company drinks the EV hemlock failure is just around the corner.
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