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Cars.com just released its annual American-Made Index for cars, timed for Fourth of July week. At first glance, the list seems bizarre. Seven of the top 10 aren’t what your grandfather would think of when discussing the importance of “buying American” and yelling at you to put down your iPhone while he’s teaching you how to change the oil.|
Instead, the list is dominated by Hondas and Toyotas: Numbers 2 through 6 are, respectively, the Toyota Camry, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Toyota Tundra, and Toyota Avalon. The only American brands on the list are the Ford F-150 (#1), Chevrolet Corvette Stingray (#7), and Dodge SRT Viper (#10). And while Dodge is a traditional American brand, some would argue that it, too, is not really an American company because it’s part of the newly merged Fiat Chrysler, headquartered in London.
So what gives? Well, as Cars.com explains, its index is derived partly from the “percentage of parts considered domestic under federal regulations” used in vehicles. To be considered, at least 75% of a vehicle’s parts must be domestic. Cars must also be assembled in the country, and of course be available for sale in the country, to make the cut.
Whether or not the logo on the vehicle is “American” or “foreign” doesn’t matter. Neither does the location of the automaker’s headquarters.
What the curious index brings to light is how complicated it is today for a consumer to buy truly “American-made” products of any kind—and cars in particular. What with outsourcing, globalization, and complex trade rules, we increasingly live in a world in which no single country can claim to be the sole producer of any product. A vehicle can be built with parts that originate in Mexico, be assembled in Canada, and still be considered an American product, with some legitimacy.