And so -- the argument continues.
Both sides are right – and wrong. Despite massive cuts, GM and Ford employ more people than Toyota and Honda, and still make more cars here, on US soil. The most American car is still a Ford, followed by a Chevy, and the profit still stays here at home. The names on the cars trace back a hundred years or more, and symbolize the American Ideal for generations of people: a good job, doing something worthwhile, building something that lasts, and leaving a legacy in sheet metal, glass and rivets.
So they’re right. But they’re also wrong, because today these same companies do business in a much different way. Faced with fierce competition and the globalization of the automotive industry, Ford and General Motors have looked outside our borders for cheaper parts and assembly; as the cost of building a car has gone up and the responsibility of pensions and pay has weighed down, US automakers have been getting decidedly less American, and the national distinction of their vehicles considerably more blurry. At the same time, foreign automakers have invested here; the likes of Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and others have put down stakes and have built their own American legacy over the span of 30 years. Now, generations of Americans look at these companies as the providers of the American Ideal. While traditional US automakers have been closing plants and moving production, foreign automakers have busied themselves with opening new plants, design shops and parts centers, employing people and rejuvenating local economies. Today, their cars are just as American as any other.
As a result, it’s hard to tell what really an American-made car is, and perhaps even why it matters. Car buyers who wish to buy American have a confusing maze of information to navigate: there’s the location of the assembly plant, the percentage of parts content, the ideal of that name on the grille, and, finally, where the pocket is that will take the profit and re-invest it into future cars and products. Each element weighs differently to each person, to be sure, so we have attempted to create a comprehensive guide to understanding what it is that makes a car an American car. Because it’s jobs and investment that matter most, we rank the assembly and parts makeup of a vehicle as most important, followed by the location of the corporate parent and, finally, the name of the brand.
Choosing the right car is difficult, and it’s enough for buyers to find a car that meets their daily needs. If, however, you also want to make a statement with your purchase, toss aside the rhetoric of the car companies and consider one question: what’s the most important thing about driving and owning an American made car? We think its jobs and investment. What about you?