It’s not enough for a vehicle to be assembled in the United States to be American made, according to a survey of shoppers by AutoTrader.com.
Nearly seven in 10 Americans also think it must be produced by a U.S.-based company.
Just a quarter of the survey respondents said it’s enough for a vehicle to be manufactured here to meet the definition of made in America, regardless of where the company is based.
But the reality, according to the Cars.com American-Made Index, few, if any, cars could be defined very strictly as made in America. The number of vehicles which contain a minimum of 75 percent U.S.-made parts has steadily shrunk in recent years, with only 10 on the Cars.com 2014 list.
And even those that qualify under the Cars.com standard were mostly from foreign-based automakers.
Combining the AutoTrader.com and Cars.com standards, only the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and Dodge SRT Viper contain 75 percent-plus American parts and are produced by an American automaker. The rest of the Cars.com list comprised Toyota (four models) and Honda (three).
The average domestic-parts content among 90 models built in the United States was only 57.1 percent, according to the Cars.com analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data.
“Even for vehicles whose final assembly is here, the components increasingly are coming from all over the place, and that’s especially true for anything electronic,” explained Ed Kim, vice president of industry analysis at AutoPacific told Cars.com. “North America is not where that stuff is built.”
So much has changed that the concept of cars made in America might be outdated as the Model T.
“The truth is, when it comes to cars, it’s simply not that cut and dry,” said Michelle Krebs of AutoTrader. “Cars have thousands of components, and even if the car’s final assembly process happens in the U.S., not very much of it may be ‘American.’ And then there’s Chrysler, which is historically an American company, but is now owned by an Italian company with headquarters in [Great Britain].
“The days of automakers promoting the ‘buy American’ message may be behind us, since it’s now something in a way everyone and no one can claim,” Krebs concluded.
“Despite the fact that the definition of ‘American-made’ is changing, it might not mean that much to domestic or foreign automakers’ bottom lines,” said AutoTrader. “Younger car shoppers care less than their older counterparts if their new car was made by an American company or by American workers.”