If you wanted to buy an “American” car, how would you know which one to buy?
It used to be simple: A Chevy was made in the United States and a Honda was made in Japan.
But today parts flow freely from nation to nation, and carmakers build vehicles in more than one country. The lines have blurred and national identities are not so clear.
Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Honda, Toyota, Subaru, Nissan, Mazda, Hyundai and Mitsubishi, for example, all assemble vehicles in the U.S., while General Motors, Ford and Chrysler build several models in Mexico, Canada and elsewhere.
Is your car ‘born in the USA’?
To make your determination you could follow the money and define a car’s nationality by where the profits wind up. Somehow, though, it doesn’t seem right to call a Honda Odyssey an “imported” car, since it’s assembled in Alabama, has a U.S.-built engine and transmission, and contains 80 percent American-made parts. Conversely, can a PT Cruiser be considered “domestic” when it’s assembled in Mexico with only 27 percent U.S.-made parts?
The American Automobile Labeling Act, or AALA, passed by Congress in 1992, sought to make it easy to “buy American.” It requires the window price sticker to state where a vehicle was assembled and what percentage of its parts was U.S.-made.
But it uses a confusing mishmash of formulas to calculate the percentage of American-made content and keeps brigades of pencil pushers at the car companies busy trying to track it all. The original idea was that at least 75 percent of a vehicle’s parts had to come from the U.S. or Canada to qualify as “made in the USA.” Yes, for some reason, parts made in Canada count. What’s more, the percentage is not based on the quantity of parts, but their value. Ten $3 U.S.-made parts are required to offset one $30 imported part and so forth.
It’s gotten to a point where you will have to make up your own mind what cars are “born in the USA.” To help you decide, we have compiled a list of vehicles assembled in the U.S. Included is the country of origin for the engine and transmission — also found on the window price sticker — along with the percentage of parts content sourced from the U.S. and Canada.
All manufacturers have not submitted content information for every 2010 model. We have noted where we use 2009 content percentages. Click on a state to see what vehicles are assembled there.