In 2016, the US auto industry employed about 2.5 million workers and had record sales of 17.5 million vehicles. This marks a shift in the last decade to more Americans buying American-made cars. And if you're in the market for American-made, this list was made for you.
The Kogod Made in America Auto Index is straight out of the Kogod School of Business at American University in Washington, DC. The Index is based on research into the economic value of different components of auto manufacturing carried out by the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
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We've outlined the top 10 American-made vehicles from the Kogod Index. But first, let's explain how it works.
The Kogod Index Explained
Ratings from the Index are based on seven points derived from publicly available data, including:
- Profit margin: How much of the profits remain in the country.
- Labor: Where the car is assembled, because US assembly keeps labor income in the US.
- Research and development: Model of domestic companies vs. foreign imports.
- Inventory, capital and other expenses: Where the car is assembled
- Engine : Where the engine is produced.
- Transmission: Where the transmission is produced.
- Body, chassis and electrical components.
Each of the seven points is assigned a number that is awarded to a car and indicates whether it is foreign or domestic. For example, if a car is assembled in the US, it's awarded a 6. If it's not assembled in the US, it gets a 0. This is the "labor" score.
10. Honda Pilot, Acura TLX AWD and Acura MDX 2WD and AWD
These cars all scored 76 on the index. Acura is made by Honda, and almost all models are now exclusively engineered and manufactured in North America. Acura's Marysville, Ohio manufacturing plant opened in 1982, and now there are multiple plants throughout the US.
Engines are made in Anna Ohio, and transmissions and related parts are made in Russells Point, Ohio. Clearly, Honda and Acura keeps things close to home and further away from its Japanese roots.
9. Chevrolet Corvette M/T
The Corvette is the official sports car of the commonwealth of Kentucky. Many would consider it "America's sports car," too. And on the Index, it scores a solid 76.5.
The Corvette was originally built in Flint, Michigan and St. Louis, Missouri. Today, it's manufactured in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The Corvette's parts are sourced from the US too, putting this Chevy near the top of the "Made in America" Index.
8. Tesla Model S
When most people think of expensive cars, they think foreign. But the Tesla Model S is mostly American, originating out of the company's Fremont, California plant. It even scored 77.5 on the Kogod Index.
While some of Tesla's parts - like the batteries - are still sourced from overseas, as is needed for some more advanced vehicles, it still makes a strong showing at number 8 on the list.
7. Ford Mustang 5.0L GT Coupe (AT) and Ford Mustang A/T
When most people think of American-made cars they think Ford. The Mustang originated in Michigan in 1964, and the plant remains in Michigan to this day.
Though the Mustang scored a solid 78.5 on the Index, only 56% is actually American/Candian-made. Recently, the Mustang has exploded into foreign markets, too. However, the bread and butter of Mustang sales will likely always be in America.
6. Honda Odyssey EX-L (Elite), Honda Ridgeline AWD/FWD, GMC Acadia AWD Denali, Chevrolet Camaro 1LT 2.0, Cadillac ATS, Cadillac ATS Sedan AWD, Ford Explorer
Each of these cars came in at a solid 78.5 on the index. However, the Honda is 75% American/Canadian-made, while the General Motors and Ford counterparts with this score are only 57% American/Canadian-made.
The Ford Explorer has over 80% American parts, whereas Chevrolet sources fewer parts from America and more overseas. So while these cars are more American than others, not all parts of each are as American as you might think.
5. Lincoln MKC, Ford Taurus 3.5, Jeep Wrangler 3.6, Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited Willys Wheeler 4x4
It's no surprise that Jeep comes in with Lincoln and Ford at number 5 with a solid 80.5. After all, 73% of Jeep parts come from America or Canada, whereas only 61% of the Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKC can say the same.
The rest of Jeep's parts come from Mexico, as does 20% of the Lincoln MKC. But with much of the assembly happening right here at home, any of these cars are great American choices.
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4. Jeep Wrangler JK Sport 4x4
With their Jeep brand assembled in Toledo, Ohio, Fiat Chrysler holds the number 4 spot.
Its headquarters are in the US. The engines and transmissions are American-built, along with 36% of the car bodies. The Wrangler Sport edges out other Wrangler models by just a half point, scoring 81 on the Index.
3. Lincoln Continental, Ford F150-4x4 (2.7L, 5.0L), Ford F150-4x2 (5.0L)
Coming in at a strong 82.5, the the Lincoln Continental - a Ford vehicle - and the Ford F150 models are almost as American as it gets.
Over 40 of Ford's research centers are located in the States. In 2015, and for the first time since the 1930s, Ford also employed more US workers than General Motors, truly keeping it American.
2. Chevrolet Volt
Chevrolet holds firm at number 2 with the Volt, scoring 83 on the Index and with 66% of the car being American/Canadian-made.
The Chevrolet Volt comes out of the General Motors Michigan plant. The lithium-ion battery comes from Brownstown, Michigan, where the company built a separate plant for that very purpose. The motor itself and the drive unit are from South Korea. However, the construction of a plant to tackle the battery - which also used to come from South Korea - is great progress for an even stronger American influence.
1. Chevrolet Corvette A/T
GM holds the number 1 spot with the Corvette – and for good reason. The company makes 38 % of the bodies in the US, along with American engines, transmissions, headquarters, labor, and research and development.
The Corvette tops the Kogod Index with a score of 83.5, 67% of the car being American/Canadian-made.
Why American-Made Matters
Having cars that are sourced and built in the United States using American labor matters.
After all, car profits typically go back to the home country of the manufacturer. This means that the country where the brand is headquartered doesn't pay American taxes on the entire profit and income from its sales.
The typical flow of income is as follows:
- When car manufacturers order vehicles, the vehicles ship from the factories (in many cases, overseas).
- The overseas companies receive American dollars, and the cars ship to the car manufacturers stateside.
- The car manufacturers sell the vehicles they bought from the factories to the franchised dealerships.
- Customers buy the cars off the lots.
Everyone stateside has to carry an American tax burden, but the factories overseas don't.These large overseas companies employ tactics to offset as much in US taxes as possible. Many of these countries have lackluster histories on human rights and worker safety, too.
The bottom line? Made and bought in America is better for everyone.
Buy Local with the Help of the Kogod Index and 2018's Most "American" Cars
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They'll even show you a bunch of quotes before you buy, so you don't have to shop around by yourself to try to find the best prices. Independent agents are ready for you to start joining the local movement.
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