Every year, Cars.com compiles a list of cars assembled here with the highest percentage of parts sourced from the U.S. and Canada. These are “the most American-made cars.” The Ford Ranger tops the list this year with 70 percent, but what’s always interesting about the list is how many foreign automakers make it, which is to say a huge plurality of them.
Here is the top 20, via Cars.com. Where each car is assembled is in parentheses.
1. Ford Ranger (assembled in Wayne, Mich.)
2. Jeep Cherokee (Belvidere, Ill.)
3. Tesla Model S (Fremont, Calif.)
4. Tesla Model 3 (Fremont, Calif.)
5. Honda Odyssey (Lincoln, Ala.)
6. Honda Ridgeline (Lincoln, Ala.)
7. Honda Passport (Lincoln, Ala.)
8. Chevrolet Corvette (Bowling Green, Ky.)
9. Tesla Model X (Fremont, Calif.)
10. Chevrolet Colorado (Wentzville, Mo.)
11. GMC Canyon (Wentzville, Mo.)
12. Chevrolet Camaro (Lansing, Mich.)
13. Honda Pilot (Lincoln, Ala.)
14. Acura RDX (East Liberty, Ohio)
15. Honda Accord (Marysville, Ohio)
16. Toyota Tundra (San Antonio)
17. Acura MDX (East Liberty, Ohio)
18. Cadillac CT5 (Lansing, Mich.)
19. Cadillac XT4 (Kansas City, Kan.)
20. Ford Expedition, Expedition Max (Louisville, Ky.)
Honda has always fared well in the annual lists, given its huge factories in Ohio and Alabama. Last year Honda made up the majority of the top ten, including two Acuras. Honda might have repeated that feat if not for the inclusion of Tesla this year, which, for the first time, participated in the survey, according to Cars.com.
Cars.com also for the first time expanded the list to include every “qualifying” car built here. In past years it only did a top ten or top 15. The full list, which you can see here, really scrambles your idea of what American-made even means anymore. There are 82 cars, including several by Subaru, Toyota, Kia, Nissan, BMW, and Volkswagen, ahead of the Chevy Bolt, for example.
Which really just shows you how globalized the world has become, and how quickly, even in the past couple decades, as parts get sourced from all over even if final assembly is in the U.S.
But one indicator of homegrown cars — AALA U.S. and Canadian parts content — shows a steady decline in recent years for cars with otherwise high credentials.
The first iteration of the American-Made Index required 75% or higher U.S. and Canadian content for eligibility, a bar dozens of models met for the index’s 2006 launch. Many — including nameplates like the Chevrolet Express and Silverado 1500, and the Ford Escape, E-Series and Ranger — registered 90% or higher AALA content. But such examples waned over the years. Even amid an increase in overall U.S. light-vehicle production, fewer than 10 cars qualified for eligibility by the 2015 and 2016 AMIs.
In 2017, Cars.com redesigned the index to lower the 75% threshold (something zero of the 91 models indexed for 2020 would meet).
And because of how quickly the ground is moving beneath our feet, people could be forgiven for not really understanding who builds what and where. STILL, I was surprised by how startling ignorant some American consumers are when it comes to knowing basic facts about automakers.
Just over half (51%) of the cars bought here are also built here, according to a Cars.com analysis of vehicle identification number data for light-duty retail sales in the first quarter of 2020. But asked to name that percentage, just 28% of respondents landed in the ballpark. Nearly 4 in 10 took a particularly dim view of U.S. automotive manufacturing, indicating 30% or fewer cars bought here are also built here.
When it comes to individual brands, misinformation still abounds. More respondents (37%) think Hyundai is a Japanese or Chinese automaker than the percentage (29%) who correctly identified it as South Korean. The same percentage (26%) said Lexus is American or German as did those who correctly identified Toyota’s luxury brand as Japanese. Only half of all respondents know Tesla is American, and only about a third think the automaker builds the Model S in America. (Tesla assembles all its cars for the U.S. market near San Francisco.)
The Lexus thing I will attribute to solid marketing, since Lexus has been trying to convince buyers it is as good as the Germans since its founding. The Hyundai stat is more in the strange/depressing category. The Tesla stat I will chalk up to “Elon Musk.”
In the car world “buy American” is pretty unsatisfying, given that every major automaker these days is a multinational corporation with aspirations for global dominance.
Congratulations to the Ford Ranger, though, the most American-made car in the world in 2020, 30 percent of which is made overseas.
Anyway, “buy American” has a deeply racist past and using that as a guiding principle to buy, well, anything seems kind of strange when “buy local” or “buy union-made” are just sitting right there.