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How American is your car?

By Claes Bell ·
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Posted: 7 am ET

At some point in nearly every conversation I've had about the bailout of the American auto industry, someone brings up the idea that many American cars "are made in Mexico anyway."  While that's an exaggeration, there's a perception -- well-founded in some cases -- that U.S. car companies appeal to the patriotism of Americans to sell cars that are only partially "imported from Detroit."

So how can we find out if American cars are really American? Every year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration publishes a handy report, highlighted recently by ABC News, that includes an analysis of how much American content goes into cars sold in the U.S.

Looking at this year's report, a couple of things stood out. One was that the criticism that "American" doesn't necessarily mean American-made is spot-on in some cases. For instance, only 21 percent of the hot new Buick Regal is made in the good ol' U.S. of A., and the General had some pretty low percentages on a significant chunk of their lineup. Overall, 5 models they currently produce are considered less than 50 percent American-made by NHTSA standards.

The degree to which many Japanese automakers are now concentrating production in the U.S. was also startling. As you'll see below, four of Toyota's biggest-selling models are in the top 20 for highest American-made content, beating out both Ford and GM, and many of the company's models  are above 50 percent in terms of American parts.

Lending credence to their "Imported from Detroit" ad campaign, Chrysler had the most American lineup, with nine models making it into the top 20 spots on the list.

Without further ado, here are the top 20 U.S. models in terms of American content, according to the NHTSA.

  1. Ford Sport Trac -- 90 percent made in the U.S.
  2. Mercury Mountaineer -- 85 percent.
  3. Ford Explorer -- 85 percent.
  4. Dodge Dakota -- 84 percent.
  5. Dodge Avenger -- 83 percent.
  6. Dodge Grand Caravan -- 82 percent.
  7. Chrysler 200 -- 81 percent.
  8. Toyota Tundra -- 80 percent.
  9. Toyota Sequoia -- 80 percent.
  10. Toyota Camry -- 80 percent.
  11. Toyota Avalon -- 80 percent.
  12. GMC Savana -- 80 percent.
  13. Dodge Nitro -- 80 percent.
  14. Chrysler Town & Country -- 80 percent.
  15. Honda Accord -- 80 percent.
  16. Jeep Wrangler 4 Door -- 79 percent.
  17. Jeep Wrangler 2 Door -- 78 percent.
  18. Jeep Liberty -- 78 percent.
  19. Chevrolet Impala -- 77 percent.
  20. Cadillac DTS -- 76 percent.

What do you think? What does the phrase "American car" mean to you?

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