By on October 14, 2021

Annual automotive-content indexes have grown in popularity since trade restrictions and tariffs have become increasingly relevant issues. But they’re usually pretty generic, often providing the broad strokes of product origin while placing a few cars housing the most regional content on a pedestal. Not so with the Kogod School of Business’ 2021 Made in America Auto Index. While the metrics used are a little different from what’s found elsewhere, it offers a more comprehensive data set than other catalogs.

Though most people still like to know which vehicles were dubbed the “most American” and Kogod’s percentage-based scoring system makes it pretty easy to figure out. We won’t leave you hanging. For the 2021 model year, the Ford Mustang GT was evaluated as the car boasting the highest level of North American hardware and labor. But you have to get a manual transmission for the necessary 88.5 percent total domestic content rating (TDC). Select the automatic and that number drops to 51 percent, which is still better than the Mustang Mach-E’s paltry 15-percent score. 

The manual-equipped Mustang ousts the Ford Ranger pickup, which led in 2020, due to the pickup seeing a substantial reduction in U.S. and Canadian-sourced components. However the rest of the leaderboard looked more familiar. Kogod gave the Corvette Stingray (third last year) second place, with the Tesla Model 3 hot on its heels.

Of course, there’s always room for disagreement. While we really like the index, the TDC rating takes into account a myriad of little factors that can make a big difference. We already mentioned the manual Mustang. But it’s easy to find other examples. Let’s stick with Ford.

The 2.7-liter Ford Bronco boasts a total score of 80.5 percent whereas the 2.3-liter model could only achieve 66.5 percent due entirely to the smaller EcoBoost motor being produced in Valencia, Spain. But there are components that require far less parts and labor that can still move the needle — in addition to similarly relevant factors pertaining to development, domestic labor, and where the profits are going.

Honda Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (now Stellantis) consistently had vehicles yielding some of the highest domestic content in the entire industry. But they both took hits on their TDC ratings for having headquarters and/or R&D centers located outside North America. FCA/Stellantis also achieved incredibly low marks on models imported straight from Europe (e.g. Maserati), countering the decidedly American products coming out of the Dodge, RAM, Chrysler, and Jeep brands. But this applied to most multinational companies attempting to service numerous markets and really hurt Toyota, despite it having a strong presence in the United States.

In fact, some of the vehicles with the lowest TDC scores were the Japanese manufacturer’s imported luxury goods. The Lexus ES Hybrid, GX, LC, LS (below), LX, RC, and RX Prime all had total scores of just 1 percent. That’s even lower than Audi products, which averaged closer to 1.5 percent.

The index attempts to explain this by driving home the point that brands possess unique priorities and even similar vehicles can have vastly different content breakdowns. It also acknowledged that 2021 wasn’t a normal year, plagued by production stoppages and supply chain issues that forced some automakers to swap equipment suppliers on the fly.

From the Kogod School of Business:

Comparing total domestic content for all vehicles sold in the US by brand, irrespective of the location of assembly, results in the following table, which shows the relationship between total domestic content (TDC) for US-assembled vehicles compared to all vehicles in a manufacturer’s product line sold in the US. Honda, GM, Ford, and FCA, for example, average much higher overall TDC than VW and Volvo. This gives an idea of the extent to which manufacturers serve the US market with local production.

When looking at average TDC by manufacturers for cars assembled in the US, one finds a high of GM and Ford at over 70 percent and FCA, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Toyota, and Fiat Chrysler at 65-70 percent. BMW and Volvo reach a low at 35 and 30 percent, respectively. Tesla, which is not in the table, makes all of its cars in the US and has an average TDC of 81 percent. While the trend TDC for cars assembled in the US is consistent over time, both Daimler and Subaru saw significant drops in their average US content. This may be the result of US shortages of parts and components as the impacts of the covid pandemic created significant disruptions in automotive supply chains.

But if you just wanted to know who had the lowest TDC scores, it was a two-way tie between everything sold by Porsche AG and Mitsubishi Motors. Rather than associate the brands with their respective parent companies, Kogod just lumped their products together as exotic, un-American imports. Hilariously, this places Mitsubishi into the same camp as Lamborghini, Ferrari, and Aston Martin — none of which were included due to low sales.

It’s a slick little index and undoubtedly useful if you’re picking out a new vehicle and want to know how much of it is made in America. Though it will probably see more service as a way for you to lord over your patriotic friends’ automotive purchases. Either way, it’s worth bookmarking if you have any interest in this kind of stuff and significantly informative vs some alternative indexes.

[Images: Ford; Chevrolet; Lexus; Mitsubishi]

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34 Comments on “‘Made in America Auto Index’ Gives Ford Mustang GT the Crown...”


  • avatar
    slavuta

    Very nice from woke Ford. Good luck

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    My father – who worked at US Steel’s Homestead Works from 68-82, gave up on his “Buy American” theme when he got a 78 Ford Fiesta (built in Germany). His coworkers abused him for this choice, because *that* Ford wasn’t American.

    Ironically, a donated 74 Datsun kept him on the road when Big Steel finally laid him off. Years before it happened, he realized the USW was incapable of saving his job as a machinist, or the plant in general.

    Today, Tesla, the transplants, and probably startups like Rivian and Lucid are criticized for not being unionized. Yet every Tesla built makes the Top 10 in this list, while other “American” cars are near the bottom.

    It is an interesting list that stirs endless debate. Some people use the Top 10 as their shopping list, while others would deliberately steer away from it.

    • 0 avatar
      pmirp1

      Valid points.

      And no one is as guilty as GM. Not only they were save by the grace of taxpayers after their bankruptcy, they sell expensive trucks made in Mexico with cheap labpr. There is zero reason to make those expensive vehicles in Mexico, but GM does GM.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        There shouldn’t be an automaker more American than GM. We’re talking a soulless robotic machine and it shows in their vehicles. There hasn’t been a GM product worth looking at in the last 20 years and no one would care if they disappeared today.

        • 0 avatar

          Mitsubishi and Nissan did not disappear, why GM should?

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            They won’t be missed either, except Mitsu and Nissan weren’t making less than they were earning on a spectacular scale. They’ve been mostly losing market share.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          …There hasn’t been a GM product worth looking at in the last 20 years and no one would care if they disappeared today…

          Well,I’d venture to say the following are certainly worth looking at – Corvette, Camaro, Silverado, ‘Burb/Tahoe, some Cadillacs…not saying they are perfect but they are worth consideration.

          Had you said “almost no GM from 1978 to 1995 was worth looking at” then I’d agree…

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        This is strictly anecdotal, but I’ve read plenty about parts in GM vehicles being made in China, like the vacuum pumps used on some LS motors.

        • 0 avatar
          Weltron

          @Duke

          GM does source quite a few things from China. For two years, I had a 2008 Saturn Outlook. I went to go do a front brake job on it one day and took the front wheel off. As I was looking around the inside of the rim, I discovered that it “CHINA” stamped in the rim. I bet a lot of the stuff under the dash was made there too.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        The plant that builds those pickups in Mexico opened in 1994.

        Ford built Lincolns in Mexico and now the Mustang Mach-e, among other models like the Maverick.

        Interestingly enough, GM built the subcompact Chevy Sonic here when most automakers (including the Japanese) built their subcompacts (or even some compact models – like Ford) in Mexico.

        It took a major concession by the UAW to make that work financially – allowing GM to hire tier-2 wage workers to build the Sonic.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      Does that Mustang still have the (rather brittle) Chinese-made transmission?

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    and thats why everything with a J VIN is awesome

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    I always wondered which was more “American”, a Ford or GM product built in Mexico or my Subaru built in Indiana.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      That is a good question. My previous car was a Ford, made in Canada. Given how good our relationship with Canada is, I felt that was good enough.

      Current car, made in Illinois.

    • 0 avatar

      Ford and GM because Mexico is in America and therefore it is American made. Subaru made by domestic terrorists and Drump supporters.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      I’m not entirely opposed to cars from Mexico. We need Mexico to be prosperous. Chinese parts need to be made in Mexico instead. It would be nice to have all US parts, but if Mexico has problems, since they live on the same pile of dirt in the middle of the ocean as us, then we have problems. We really need Mexico to become a first-world country.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @mcs – agreed. Moving Mexico and it’s populace up the socioeconomic ladder would be just as beneficial for the USA as it would be for Mexico.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          Ironically, NAFTA decimated the small farmer in Mexico (subsidized American big agri) – which often meant the adults from small villages across Mexico migrating up to the US to find work.

          Manufacturing jobs at this point really weren’t headed to Mexico, but to China which had significantly lower costs at the time.

  • avatar
    deanst

    “countering the decidedly American products coming out of the Dodge, RAM, Chrysler, and Jeep brands.”

    Umm, Chrysler basically has 2 models – both made in Canada.

  • avatar

    My Ford is made in United Mexican States and I am proud of it.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    “hits on their TDC ratings for having headquarters and/or R&D centers located outside North America”

    nice index…

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    Having already been through this conversation on the Ford Board on what constitutes an “American vehicle/Manufacturer” the Toyota Tundra comes in (the top twenty) at “mid-pack” in the top “most American Vehicles”. Remember-it’s the sum of parts”. The summary of the discussion was it’s so unclear now-it’s best not even to go there-but the TTAC needs something to write about under these dire auto market conditions. Many cars are put together in Mexico for many automakers.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    Is it made with union labor?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      My Korean-built Hyundai was made with union labor. Does that count?

      My American-built Kia was not.

      My three cars are red, white, and blue, respectively. Does that count for anything? So conflicted…

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        “My three cars are red, white, and blue, respectively. Does that count for anything? So conflicted…”

        Just park them in the proper red, white, blue order. If it’s white, blue, and red, it’s Russian. (disclaimer: just kidding)

    • 0 avatar
      CKNSLS Sierra SLT

      Nick_515

      There are many things “made in America” that are not assembled with Union Labor.

      Your point is?????????????????

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    The rankings go back to model year 2013, so I was able to find that my built-in-San Antonio 2013 Toyota Tacoma ranked 16th that year, with the engine and transmission built in the US. The rankings were pretty different then, leading off with Profit Margin instead of the percentage of US/Canada content. In fact there’s no percentage of US/Canada content listed on the 2013 index, which I find strange.

    Also, it looks like they could use a proofreader/editor. One of the subheads on the main page is:

    “Cars, in general, have been are becoming less American over the past few decades.”

    Maybe it should read, “Cars, in general, have been *or* are becoming less American over the past few decades.”

  • avatar
    SaulTSack

    You can keep your fancy schmancy index poll – TV says my Wagoneer is “proudly assembled in America”

    TV is always right

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @SaulTSack – TV has been replaced by Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. for accurate sources of information.

      /sarc

      Added just in case someone thought I was serious!

  • avatar
    cardave5150

    Surprising to me that Mopar models slid down in the rankings because Stellantis gets “dinged” for headquarters being outside North America. I thought the former FCA headquarters were also overseas.

  • avatar
    3SpeedAutomatic

    According to the worksheet, a small surprise concerning Ford and EV’s:

    – Mustang GT 5.0L MT 88.5%

    – Mustang 2.3L Ecoboost 75.5%

    – Mustang GT 5.0L AT 75.5%

    – Mustang Mach-E 19.5%

    I guess the batteries are made in Asia (China most probably)

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      “According to the worksheet, a small surprise concerning Ford and EV’s”

      Here’s your list with other brands of EVs inserted. While the Mach-E is not as high of content as Tesla, Nissan, Polestar, and Chevrolet, they do have higher content than Hyundai/KIA and VW.

      – Mustang GT 5.0L MT 88.5%

      – Tesla Model 3 82.5%

      – Tesla Model S 80%

      – Mustang 2.3L Ecoboost 75.5%

      – Mustang GT 5.0L AT 75.5%

      – Chevrolet Bolt 41%

      – Nissan Leaf 37.5 %

      – Polestar 30%

      – Mustang Mach-E 19.5%

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      Is the calculation done by the pound, or by the number of parts, or is each part given a percentage of the whole vehicle?

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