Buy American

By Sharon Naylor

August 23, 2011 6 min read

When shopping for a new car, "Made in the USA" may be your highest priority. President Barack Obama recently urged patriotic citizens to consider buying American-made cars to support the economy and boost jobs in the auto sector.

You might be surprised to find that many foreign cars are actually manufactured in the U.S., however -- and that some commonly known American car brands are now outperforming foreign-made makes and models.

If you want to buy the best car, and keep your patriotic values intact, you'll find it's not as simple as choosing a brand name you've known forever as "American made." Here's a basic exploration of foreign and domestic cars manufactured, in whole or in part, in the U.S.

The popular auto website Cars.com recently released its list of the Top 10 Most American Vehicles, based on the percentage of parts made domestically and where the cars are assembled. Toyota and Honda have had U.S. factories for more than 25 years (providing many American jobs) and claim five spots on the Cars.com list. The top foreign company cars made in America are:

--Toyota Camry (the No. 1 most American car on the list, assembled in Georgetown, Ky., and Lafayette, Ind.). Yes, Toyota did recall its Camry for acceleration problems, but the issue has reportedly been solved with retrofitted brake override systems on pre-2011 models, and 2011 models feature the same solution.

--Honda Accord (No. 2). The Accord LX, often named to Car and Driver's 10 Best Cars list, is assembled in Marysville, Ohio, and Lincoln, Ala.

--Honda Odyssey (No. 6). Often named as the best minivan to drive, the Odyssey also is made in the Marysville and Lincoln locations.

--Toyota Tundra (No. 8). The Tundra, a full-sized pickup with a powerful V-8 engine, is assembled in San Antonio.

--Toyota Sienna (No. 10). One of the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study top minivans, the Sienna is American-made, as well, and wasn't affected by the Toyota recall.

The other top five models on the list hail from Detroit's Big Three automakers -- General Motors, Ford and Chrysler:

--Ford Escape (No. 3). The Escape is a compact SUV assembled in Kansas City, Kan.

--Ford Focus (No. 4). The Focus is a subcompact assembled in Wayne, Mich., and has a new, more fuel-efficient model highly anticipated in 2012.

--Chevrolet Malibu (No. 5). Chevy is presently offering significant rebates for the Malibu, a midsize car also made in Kansas City.

--Dodge Ram 1500 (No. 7). The Ram is one of the models that you have to be careful about. Its quad car and crew cab versions are built in Warren, Mich., but its single-cab version is assembled in Mexico.

--Chrysler's Jeep Wrangler (No. 9). The Wrangler, assembled in Toledo, Ohio, offers street and off-road capability.

Cars.com says it disqualified cars from consideration if they included fewer than 75 percent domestic parts, were made overseas or were soon to be discontinued.

An interesting footnote in the Cars.com report concerns the newest U.S. carmaker, Tesla Motors, based in Fremont, Calif. Tesla makes all-electric sports cars and is planning an initial public offering.

Some additional foreign companies call the U.S. home, as well. You can decide whether you wish to buy from a foreign auto company that has its headquarters and its manufacturing in the United States or just its headquarters. The site GlobalAutomakers.org provides the pedigree of each company. For instance:

--Aston Martin has had a presence in the United States since 1950, establishing U.S. operations in 1964, and is headquartered in Irvine, Calif.

--Ferrari established U.S. operations in 1990, with its company headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

--Honda began manufacturing cars in Ohio in 1979 and now, with headquarters in Torrance, Calif., has nationwide facilities that manufacture, assemble, research and design vehicles and their components.

--Hyundai established its headquarters in Fountain Valley, Calif., and in 2005 began manufacturing vehicles in Montgomery, Ala., with state-of-the-art research, design and testing facilities in California.

--Isuzu has operated out of Anaheim, Calif., since 1975.

--Kia established U.S. operations in 1992 in Irvine, Calif., with engineering facilities in Michigan and California.

--Mitsubishi's headquarters are in Cypress, Calif., and it began manufacturing from its Normal, Ill., location in 1985.

--Nissan's headquarters are in Franklin, Tenn., and its Smyrna, Tenn., plant, which opened in 1983, was the first of its three manufacturing facilities operating in the U.S.

--Toyota has operated since 1957 out of Torrance, Calif.

Again, the issue of headquarters-here vs. manufacturing-here depends on your personal value system. It's not all black-and-white. You might choose to patronize American car companies no matter if they manufacture parts of their fleets overseas.

For instance, General Motors in Detroit manufactures cars and trucks in 34 countries and employs more than 244,500 people all over the world. You might consider the fact that many foreign car companies do employ millions of Americans at their domestic manufacturing, research, design, engineering and sales facilities across the country. Visit AutoAlliance.org to read the statistics of individual auto companies' employment factors and the intricate networks of their locations.

Another step in choosing how to buy American is reviewing Consumer Reports' general and categorized car test reports and ratings, which currently show General Motors, Ford and Chrysler vehicles ranking within the best American-made car models.

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