Buying mostly ‘American-made’ vehicles getting more difficult

Made in America.

Three words that carry special meaning as we approach the Fourth of July – Independence Day – the most American of all holidays.

Words that many think don’t apply to most vehicles sold in America.

The Kia Optima sold in America is mostly made here.

While there may be a lot of truth to that, it doesn’t mean Americans who are feeling especially patriotic have no choice but to purchase vehicles manufactured elsewhere.

In fact, only 107 models – about 22 percent – of nearly 500 from more than 30 brands identified in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2017 American Automobile Labeling Act report are built at least 50 percent of parts made in America (United States and Canada).

Just over one-third of the 107 are made from 70 percent or more domestically produced components, based on the NHTSA data, and more than 70 vehicles use at least 60 percent American-made parts.


Only if a shopper is looking for a vehicle comprising 80 percent or more of America-made parts are the pickings truly slim with just three clearing that hurdle. The three models for those buyers in a patriotic frame of mind in 2017 are, ironically, from South Korean automaker Kia (Optima 1.6L engine and 2.4L engine), both 83 percent, and German carmaker Mercedes-Benz (C-Class Vance) at 80 percent. However, the companies source their motors from South Korea and Germany, respectively.


Ten more models, dominated by Honda, comprise 75 percent American-made parts, including transmissions and engines, with final assembly also occurring in the United States. They include seven from Honda (four versions of the RDX, two of the CR-V and the Ridgeline pickup truck) and one each from Fiat Chrysler (Jeep Wrangler 4-Door), Kia (Optima 2.0L engine) and Toyota (Camry).


Honda also dominates the 70-74 percent range of American-made parts with 14 of 25 vehicles, followed by Fiat Chrysler with five, General Motors with three, and Toyota, Ford and Mercedes with one each. Honda’s vehicles include five Civics and three versions each of the Accord and CR-V, while the Fiat Chrysler group comprises the Dodge Viper, Jeep Wrangler 2-Door, Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan and Jeep Cherokee. GM scores with Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia.


Most of the vehicles that made the list here comprised 60-69 percent or 50-59 percent American-made parts, with 33 vehicles in the upper range and 36 vehicles in the lower range.

Brands represented in the 60-69 percent range of American-made parts in the 2017 report – with FCA and General Motors comprising nine vehicles each – are Toyota with six; Chrysler, Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge and Jeep, three each, and Cadillac, GMC, Acura, Mercedes-Benz, Buick and Lincoln, two each. The 50-59 percent range comprises Nissan, 10 vehicles; Chevrolet, five; Ford, four; Cadillac and Lincoln, three each; Dodge, Infiniti and Tesla, two each, and Acura, Buick, Hyundai, Kia and Lexus, one each.

Percentages for specific models and historical data are available at the NHTSA website.


On the other end of the spectrum, nearly 400 models (about 78 percent) comprise less than 50 percent American-made parts, with 20 using 40-49 percent, 13 using 30-39 percent, 26 with 20-29 percent, 21 using 10-19 percent, and the remainder – about 200 vehicles – comprising under 10 percent.

The lowest range, comprising 193 vehicles with 0-1 percent American-made parts in the 2017 report, is dominated by brands such as Audi, Hyundai, Infiniti, Kia, Lexus, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Porsche, Subaru, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo.


Here are the numbers, based on the NHTSA data:

  • The 107 models with 50 percent or more American-made parts actually is up slightly from 103 five years ago.
  • Models clearing the 80 percent hurdle dropped to three from 10.
  • Models in the 70-79 percent range fell to 35 from 40.
  • The number in the combined 60-69 percent and the 50-59 percent ranges rose to 69 from 53.

All this data means it’s getting harder to be patriotic when shopping for a vehicle, if buying American-made products or products made mostly of U.S. parts is a way of expressing your patriotism.

Still, there are a lot of choices for a new-car purchase if you’re inclined to buy American.

Especially around the July Fourth holiday.

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