Ford & GM = Trouble
Today, such arrogance would be misplaced. GM and its cross-town rival, Ford Motor Company, are in deep trouble. Wall Street has downgraded both from investment grade to junk bond status. Market share is plunging, health care costs are skyrocketing, product is aging, and neither has a reputation for long-term quality and durability. This, despite steady quality gains and the recent introductions of several appealing new models that meet, if not exceed, the standards set by imports.
To combat the rising costs of doing business and accept new market realities, during the next several years GM is slicing 25,000 jobs, closing assembly plants, and shrinking product lines. Bill Ford, chairman and CEO of Ford Motor Company, is valiantly refusing compensation until he turns his company around while simultaneously slicing 2,700 positions from the corporate payroll. These trends continue a downward spiral for GM and Ford, which have lost a combined 1.15 million sales and have closed (or are about to close) four U.S. assembly plants since the start of the 21st century.
And it’s not just Ford and GM that are struggling. Subaru, which operates an assembly plant in Indiana, has joined the two biggest domestic automakers in the junk-bond category despite one of the most impressive reliability records of any car brand sold in America.
Fifty years after Wilson testified before the Senate, his assertion never rang truer. But now, what’s bad for GM (and Ford, and any car maker designing, developing, and manufacturing cars in the U.S.) is bad for the country. Whether you realize it or not, this shrinking of the domestic automobile industry directly affects you.
Photo Illustration by Christina Urias
Still, the sales of imported vehicles built outside of our borders continue to impact our collective bottom lines. Overall, the U.S. market that has seen a five-year decline of half a million units sold, yet import sales have risen here by about 550,000 – mainly in trucks. The result is that homegrown U.S. vehicle production has dwindled by more than one million units since 1999, leaving small American companies, small American towns, and hard working Americans unemployed.
Fortunately, as assembly plants have closed in northern regions of the U.S., transplants have been opening huge, state-of-the-art facilities in the Deep South. Three are open now, and a fourth ribbon-cutting ceremony for a Toyota Tundra truck-building factory in San Antonio, Texas, is slated for 2006.
But we, as Americans, cannot expect foreign companies to ensure the health of our economy. Ultimately, the responsibility to make sure America, and Americans, remain economically viable rests in our hands. We must buy American.
How to Buy American
Buying American can be defined two ways. The old-school definition relies on where the ultimate profit goes when you buy a car. The modern definition, based on the reality of a global economy, considers the impact of your purchase on local economies.
Traditionally, when it comes to cars, buying American means purchasing anything made by the Big Three – Chrysler, Ford, GM – or the companies they own and operate or have invested in.
Chrysler used to be an American company based in Auburn Hills, Michigan, but merged with DaimlerBenz a few years back and is now headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. Technically, profit dollars from the sale of Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep products get shipped across the Atlantic to der faterland for conversion into Euros. We no longer consider Chrysler Group products to be “American” in the traditional sense.
Ford Motor Company is based in Dearborn, Michigan. Ford’s brand portfolio, the roster of vehicle makes that the company sells, includes Aston Martin, Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercury, and Volvo.
General Motors is based in Detroit, Michigan. GM’s brand portfolio includes Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Hummer, Pontiac, Saab, and Saturn. GM also owns a substantial stake in each of these Japanese automakers: Isuzu, Subaru and Suzuki.
Buy any one of these Ford or GM vehicles, and profit dollars ultimately land in the Great Lakes State, lining the coffers of two huge corporations that have, historically, paid top executives ridiculous amounts of salary, benefits, bonuses, and stock options to let market dominance erode.
Ford and GM also build cars outside of the U.S., in places like Canada, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, England, and Sweden. Given the swing toward global economies during the past few decades, this is natural and necessary to compete on a worldwide scale.
But, if you’d rather support local economies, you should try to buy a car or truck assembled within the borders of the United States. In addition to Ford and GM, companies like Honda, Nissan, and Toyota are investing in the U.S. to make sure our nation’s small towns and working-class heroes can continue to pay the mortgage, send the kids to school, and put food on the table. Screw those high-powered execs that have squandered market share over the past half-century – give the money to the little guy!
Cars and trucks built by foreign automakers within the United States wear Acura, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Toyota badges. Because DaimlerChrysler is a German corporation, we include Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles in this category as well.
Pick your poison, or combine our Old-School and Modern Reality definitions for buying American and select a Ford or GM product that is assembled within the U.S. To help you make a decision, we’ve compiled a handy guide that shows what models are made in the U.S.A., indexed by make. This list does not include models that are assembled in Canada and Mexico – that’s why vehicles like the Buick Rendezvous, Chevy Impala, Chrysler 300, and Mercury Grand Marquis are absent. That’s right, Grandpa, your chrome-bedecked turnpike cruiser came from the Great White North.
Buy American! You might not only save the jobs of others, but also your own.
Photo Illustration by Christina Urias
One of the best entry-level luxury sedans on the market today, the Acura TL, is made in Marysville, Ohio. We recommend this car, and not just because it meets our criteria for this story. Powerful, comfortable, and stylish, the Acura TL is fun to drive when you want it to be, luxurious when you need it to be, and enjoys a reputation for reliability. And since Marysville is the sole source for TLs sold in the U.S., there’s no need to worry that your car came from a factory in Japan.
BMW Z4 – Spartanburg, South Carolina
With a luxury suv and a sporty roadster covering the bases, you can buy a BMW that’s not only made in America but serves your purposes. Like most BMWs, the Z4 roadster is great fun to drive, and the X5 SUV carries five passengers and a good-sized load of cargo in case a roadster isn’t big enough. All X5s and Z4s come from BMW’s South Carolina assembly plant.
Buick Lucerne – Hamtramck, Michigan
Buick Park Avenue – Orion Township, Michigan
Buick Rainier – Moraine, Ohio
Buick Terraza – Doraville, Georgia
Buick wants to be America’s Lexus, but it’s got a long way to go. Until the promising 2006 Lucerne arrives, your American-built choices are limited to the Terraza minivan, Rainier sport/utility, Park Avenue luxo-cruiser, and LeSabre retiree special.
Cadillac DeVille – Hamtramck, Michigan
Cadillac DTS – Hamtramck, Michigan
Cadillac Escalade – Arlington, Texas
Cadillac SRX – Lansing, Michigan
Cadillac STS – Lansing, Michigan
Cadillac XLR – Bowling Green, Kentucky
In recent years, Cadillac has remade itself into a world-class competitor by creating luxurious vehicles equipped with sophisticated technology and dressed in distinctive sheetmetal. Quality is also better than ever, if not quite to Lexus and BMW standards. This luxury division of General Motors will complete its metamorphosis this fall with the release of the DTS, which replaces the DeVille in the lineup. Most modern Cadillacs are stylish and fun to drive. Resale values continue to lag primary competitors, but otherwise, the new generation of Cadillacs is an impressive lineup.
Chevrolet Colorado – Shreveport, Louisiana
Chevrolet Corvette – Bowling Green, Kentucky
Chevrolet Express – Wentzville, Missouri
Chevrolet Malibu – Kansas City, Missouri
Chevrolet Malibu Maxx – Kansas City, Missouri
Chevrolet Silverado – Flint, Michigan; Pontiac, Michigan;
Ft. Wayne, Indiana
Chevrolet SSR – Lansing, Michigan
Chevrolet Suburban – Arlington, Texas and ; Janesville,
Chevrolet Tahoe – Arlington, Texas and Janesville, Wisconsin
Chevrolet TrailBlazer – Moraine, Ohio
Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Chevrolet Uplander – Doraville, Georgia
Notice that the Chevrolet Equinox, Impala and Monte Carlo aren’t listed here. That’s because they’re built in Canada, eh, along with a third of the Silverados for sale. And the new HHR, the Avalanche, and some Suburbans, come from south of the border. Otherwise, you can safely assume that a resident of the United States put any bow-tied car or truck together. Our favorites: Cobalt, especially the SS; Corvette; and SSR.
Chrysler Sebring Coupe – Normal, Illinois
Chrysler Sebring Sedan – Sterling Heights, Michigan
Chrysler Town & Country – St. Louis, Missouri
The hot-selling 300 and extremely safe Pacifica are built in Canada, PT Cruisers are made in Mexico, and the Crossfire hails from Germany, so that leaves this rag-tag group of winged-badge products to represent Chrysler’s Buy American contingent. The Town & Country has a slick Stow ‘n Go seating system that’s handy for people who haul both people and cargo on a regular basis, but the aged Sebrings leave something to be desired. The Coupe is dead after the 2005 model year, and the Convertible and Sedan are rental fleet specials. Hey, at least they’ve got long seven-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranties. Until 2006, when Chrysler reverts to three-year/36,000-mile coverage.
Dodge Dakota – Warren, Michigan
Dodge Durango – Newark, Delaware
Dodge Grand Caravan – St. Louis, Missouri
Dodge Neon – Belvidere, Illinois
Dodge Sprinter – Gaffney, South Carolina
Dodge Stratus Coupe – Normal, Illinois
Dodge Stratus Sedan – Sterling Heights, Michigan
Dodge Ram – St. Louis, Missouri and Warren, Michigan
Dodge Viper – Detroit, Michigan
Dodge’s hottest new cars, the Charger and Magnum, as well as some Caravans and Grand Caravans are built in Canada, and a third of all Ram pickups are made in Mexico, but most other vehicles wearing a cross-haired grille are assembled in the U.S. of A. Dodge builds several solid products, like the Dakota pickup, the Durango SUV, the Neon SRT-4 sport sedan, the Ram pickup, and the Viper sports car. Even the aging Grand Caravan minivan has its charms. But we’d skip the Neon and Stratus until replacements for these models arrive in the next couple of years.
Ford Escape – Kansas City, Missouri and Avon Lake, Ohio
Ford Excursion – Kansas City, Missouri
Ford Expedition – Wayne, Michigan
Ford Explorer – Louisville, Kentucky and Fenton, Missouri
Ford F-Series – Dearborn, Michigan; Wayne, Michigan;
Kansas City, Missouri; Norfolk, Virginia
Ford Five Hundred – Chicago, Illinois
Ford Focus – Wayne, Michigan
Ford Freestyle – Chicago, Illinois
Ford GT – Wixom, Michigan
Ford Mustang – Flat Rock, Michigan
Ford Ranger – Minneapolis, Minnesota
Ford Taurus – Atlanta, Georgia
Ford Thunderbird – Wixom, Michigan
Ford offers a little something for everyone in the Buy American category, from an exotic sports car in the GT to a full-size family sedan called the Five Hundred. Crown Vics and Freestar minivans originate north of the border, while the new 2006 Fusion is made in Mexico along with a handful of F-Series Super Duty models. Otherwise, everything wearing the blue oval badge is made in America. Contrary to popular belief, Ford’s got a solid lineup these days; the only duds are the oversized Excursion, aged Ranger, and obsolete Taurus.
GMC Envoy – Moraine, Ohio
GMC Envoy XL – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
GMC Envoy XUV – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
GMC Savana – Wentzville, Missouri
GMC Sierra – Flint, Michigan; Pontiac, Michigan; Ft. Wayne,
GMC Yukon – Arlington, Texas and Janesville, Wisconsin
GMC Yukon XL – Arlington, Texas and Janesville, Wisconsin
GMC builds a handful of Sierra pickups in Canada, and sources a third of its Yukon XL models from Mexico, but otherwise builds everything here in the United States, making it a shame that the product isn’t truly “professional grade.” All current GMC models are either aging rapidly or aren’t considered to be competitive in their classes -- though this Yukon Denali sure is stylish.
Honda Civic – East Liberty, Ohio
Honda Element – East Liberty, Ohio
Honda Odyssey – Lincoln, Alabama
Honda Pilot – Lincoln, Alabama
Good news! The popular Accord and Civic are made in America. But since Honda also builds the Civic in Canada, consumers who want a “made in the U.S.A.” label will need to check the source factory on the window sticker before buying. Same goes for the Honda Pilot, which is built in both countries, and note that less than five percent of Accord sedans come from a factory in Japan. All Honda Ridgelines are sourced from north of the border, but the Accord Coupe, Odyssey minivan and Element SUV are all-American, baby!
Hummer H2 – Mishawaka, Indiana
Hummer H3 – Shreveport, Louisiana
Hummers might be symbols of American military might and expendable income, but at least they can fly the stars-and-stripes with pride, because each model is built within U.S. borders. The new Hummer H3 is assembled in Louisiana, sharing a production line with the compact GM pickups with which it shares its guts. The civilian version of the military HUMVEE, the H1, and it’s more docile but equally imposing H2 sibling, are produced at the AM General plant in northern Indiana.
Hyundai Santa Fe – Montgomery, Alabama
Hyundai invested one billion dollars in its new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Alabama. Today, the redesigned 2006 Hyundai Sonata is assembled there, but later in the year, the Korean automaker will add a new, larger, seven-passenger Santa Fe SUV to the plant. The 2006 Hyundai Sonata is a handsome, spacious, value-laden family sedan that we would recommend to anyone wanting a great deal on a nice set of wheels.
Only because the QX56 is based on the Nissan Armada does Infiniti sell an American-bred model in its lineup. And as oversized luxury utes go, the Infiniti QX56 isn’t the best of the lot.
Isuzu i-Series Pickup – Shreveport, Louisiana
They might have Japanese nameplates on them, but the Isuzu Ascender and Isuzu i-Series Pickup are all-American. Swap out the Ascender’s grille and brightwork, change the badges, and you’ve got yourself a Chevy TrailBlazer or GMC Envoy. The i-Series is an even more thinly veiled version of the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon. Here’s a secret: both Isuzus come with a better warranty than their nearly identical twins from Chevrolet and GMC, so if a mid-sized SUV or compact pickup from General Motors is on your radar, look into buying the Ascender or the i-Series.
Jeep Grand Cherokee – Detroit, Michigan
Jeep Liberty – Toledo, Ohio
Jeep Wrangler – Toledo, Ohio
Jeeps can go places most other SUVs can’t, and with the redesigned Grand Cherokee’s debut for 2005, a trail-rated Jeep is just as comfortable on the pavement as it is off. Our favorite, however, is the classic Wrangler, a no-excuses kind of vehicle that is affordable, immensely fun to drive, and totally impractical.
Lincoln LS – Wixom, Michigan
Lincoln Mark LT – Dearborn, Michigan
Lincoln Navigator – Wayne, Michigan
Lincoln Town Car – Wixom, Michigan
Lincoln has lost its luster, and when compared to the renaissance of design, engineering, and quality that is transforming Cadillac, it’s hard to think of a single reason for anyone to buy one of these rebadged Ford products. The only Lincoln worth mentioning is the LS, a true sport-luxury sedan not shared with Ford or Mercury and that could have taken on the best cars in the segment with a little more attention to detail. But that car is almost dead, to be replaced by a Mexican-built Ford Fusion with a chrome waterfall grille on the front and a Zephyr nametag on the back. Ugh.
Mazda B-Series – Minneapolis, Minnesota
Mazda Tribute – Kansas City, Missouri
Two of these Mazdas are really Ford products with revised styling – the Tribute is a gussied-up Ford Escape and the B-Series is little more than a Ford Ranger. We recommend the Tribute, but the B-Series is neither competitive nor appealing. Mazda’s excellent 6 – available in sedan, hatchback, and station wagon format – is a treat to drive, featuring handsome styling and unmatched utility in its class.
Mercedes-Benz R-Class – Vance, Alabama
Two of the hottest new Mercedes models for 2006 are assembled in Alabama. The M-Class is a sport-utility vehicle, and the R-Class is a concoction known as a “sport-tourer,” which translates into “station wagon” if we’re using our 1970s thesaurus. Either offers impressive levels of luxury, high-tech engineering, and a made-in-America label.
Mercury Montego – Chicago, Illinois
Mercury Mountaineer – Louisville, Kentucky and Fenton,
Mercury Sable – Atlanta, Georgia
Mercury’s Monterey minivan and Grand Marquis sedan are Canadian, and the new 2006 Milan will come from Mexico, but the rest of the lineup is made in America. The decision to choose a Mercury over a Ford comes down to whether or not you like satin-nickel interior and exterior trim. Mercurys get it; Fords don’t.
Mitsubishi Endeavor – Normal, Illinois
Mitsubishi Galant – Normal, Illinois
Mitsubishi Raider – Warren, Michigan
The Eclipse, Endeavor, and Galant share what Mitsubishi calls the “Project America” platform. The plan was to make them the high-volume sellers in the U.S., but so far the company’s intentions have fallen short. Nevertheless, combining generous rebates with an impressive warranty makes the Endeavor and Galant appealing, while the new Eclipse is charged with the unenviable task of tackling the Ford Mustang on the sport-coupe battleground. The new Raider pickup truck is a re-skinned Dodge Dakota equipped with a better warranty.
Nissan Armada – Canton, Mississippi
Nissan Frontier – Smyrna, Tennessee
Nissan Maxima – Smyrna, Tennessee
Nissan Pathfinder – Smyrna, Tennessee
Nissan Quest – Canton, Mississippi
Nissan Titan – Canton, Mississippi
Nissan Xterra – Smyrna, Tennessee
On a Quest to expand its sales Frontiers, Japanese automaker Nissan, a Titan within the industry, builds a virtual Armada of “Altimate” products within U.S. borders in an effort to Find a Path to American driveways. We’d recommend any of them for Maximum bang-for-the-buck. Just make sure the Nissan you’re considering was built in the States by checking the window sticker to see the location of the originating factory. (Sorry, but we got nothin’ for the cool new Xterra.)
Pontiac Grand Am – Lansing, Michigan
Pontiac Montana SV6 – Doraville, Georgia
Pontiac Solstice – Wilmington, Delaware
Pontiac Sunfire – Lordstown, Ohio
Pontiac Vibe – Fremont, California
Formerly the excitement division of General Motors, but in recent years the spoilers-and-cladding brand, most of Pontiac’s lineup is sourced from within U.S. borders. The Grand Prix sedan and upcoming Torrent SUV are made in Canada, but otherwise Ponchos are all-American. We highly recommend the Vibe, which is constructed almost entirely of durable Toyota parts, and the new G6 is a comfortable if rather unrefined model that could hold promise with a little more massaging by designers and engineers. The new face of Pontiac, the Solstice roadster, goes into production in Delaware this summer.
The Saab faithful will clutch their chests and yammer like Redd Foxx doing Fred Sanford, but the new 9-7X sport-utility vehicle is a thoroughly revised Chevy TrailBlazer under the skin, which means it’s built in Ohio – even if the ignition is between the front seats.
Saturn Ion – Spring Hill, Tennessee
Saturn L-Series – Wilmington, Delaware
Saturn Relay – Doraville, Georgia
Saturn Vue – Spring Hill, Tennessee
Saturn used to inspire fanatical owner loyalty, hold annual owner picnics at the factory in Tennessee, and rigidly adhere to one-price selling in its dealer showrooms. Today, after a decade of product starvation, Saturn is just another GM brand, stumbling along with a middling product lineup. Well, at least they’re all made in America, including the Vue SUV with its Honda-sourced V6 engine.
Subaru B9 Tribeca – Lafayette, Indiana
Subaru Legacy – Lafayette, Indiana
Subaru Outback – Lafayette, Indiana
According to Consumer Reports, Subaru builds the most durable cars and SUVs on the market. That’s good news to consumers with a Buy American mindset, because half the Japanese automaker’s product lineup is assembled in the U.S. Our favorites are the Legacy and Outback, small but stylish all-wheel-drive models that are also fun to drive. The new 2006 B9 Tribeca also holds promise, but golly is it ugly up front.
Toyota Camry – Georgetown, Kentucky
Toyota Camry Solara – Georgetown, Kentucky
Toyota Corolla – Fremont, California
Toyota Sequoia – Princeton, Indiana
Toyota Sienna – Princeton, Indiana
Toyota Tundra – Princeton, Indiana
Toyota Tacoma – Fremont, California
Toyota, Ford’s and GM’s chief nemesis, builds several of its best products within the borders of the United States. The Corolla, Camry, Sienna, and Tacoma are among the most durable and popular models in their respective classes. The Avalon is exactly what Buick should be building but isn’t, and the Sequoia SUV has proven popular with people who need the space and capability of a full-size SUV. The Tundra hasn’t proven competitive against traditional full-size pickups, but a larger, more powerful, completely redesigned version is due for launch next year. To be built in a new assembly plant. Located in San Antonio, Texas. Texas, the heart of pickup country. Just try and tell us that San Antonians won’t want to help support their neighbors by buying a new Tundra. Photos courtesy of Vehicle Manufacturers