Car Misconceptions: The Myth of the American Made Car

Back in the 1960s, Ford, GM, and Chrysler (the big three) dominated car production in the United States. People who held manufacturing jobs with these companies were well paid, had great benefits, and lived the American dream. When the 1970s brought higher gasoline prices, small foreign-made cars became popular in this country because of their fuel efficiency. The big three lost their dominant share of the U.S. auto sales market and many American auto workers lost their jobs.

Since then, there has been a lot of patriotic fervor for buying American made cars to support American jobs. Thanks to globalism, this is difficult to do because in fact, the American made car is a car-misconception, a myth. The sad fact is that buying American made today comes down to choosing a car that uses the highest percentage of American parts and labor.

Is buying a Toyota Camry, buying American?

Toyota is a Japanese auto maker that “makes” the Camry, a popular car in America. Americans are gainfully employed assembling the car in Georgetown, KY where 75% of the parts used are American. Georgetown has been assembling Toyota cars since 1988. If by buying American, you mean buying an American brand, then the answer is no. However, if it’s about manufacturing jobs that employ Americans in America, the answer is mostly yes. On the other hand, if buying American means where the profits from car sales flow, the answer is no.

To complicate things further, both GM and Ford “make” cars that are assembled in foreign countries with mostly foreign parts, as well as cars assembled in America with mostly American parts, and other cars with varying combinations of assembly locations and foreign/domestic car parts.

However, all is not lost for the American consumer who wants to support American jobs of all types with their car purchases. The Kogod School of Business has put together a made in America auto index that scores car makes on how their manufacture and sale benefit Americans. The many factors taken into account are listed here. The overall score for each car make is at the far right column labeled “total domestic content.”

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