Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

Most-American Car Ranking Changes Criteria After Only Three Qualify

  • Cars.com lowers percentage of domestic parts needed in index
  • Global auto supply chains mean ranking criteria had to evolve

Think “American-made” doesn’t mean what it used to? You’re right, at least if you’re talking about how to define the world’s “Most-American” vehicles.

Online car research site Cars.com, which began ranking the “most-American” cars and trucks more than a decade ago, had to change its metrics this year as globalization of the supply chain means only three models could have qualified using the original criteria. That’s down from more than 60 vehicles when the index launched in 2006.

“Even if a car is from a brand headquartered in one place, you have to keep in mind what goes into a vehicle,” Joe Wiesenfelder, executive editor of Cars.com, said in an interview. “Automakers ultimately have to build their vehicles based on the numbers.”

Whether President Donald Trump likes it or not, the definition of “made in America” has been undergoing some changes, especially in the auto industry. While the Trump administration has pushed car companies to manufacture more in the U.S., many of the parts makers are already located in Mexico and other low-cost countries. Integrated supply chains and efforts to cut costs have made the auto industry’s globalization “irreversible,” Wiesenfelder said.

New Metrics

This year, Cars.com added three criteria -- country of engine origin, country of transmission origin and U.S. factory employment relative to the company’s sales footprint -- to its original criteria measuring domestic parts content and assembly location. It also lowered the percentage of domestic parts that a car needed to be able to qualify to 60 percent from 75 percent.

Jeep Wrangler

Photographer: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Under those new metrics, the top two “Most American” cars were Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Cherokee, made by Italian-American carmaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV in Toledo, Ohio.

Ford Motor Co.’s Chicago-made Taurus came in No. 3, though LMC Automotive predicts the carmaker will eventually transfer production of that model to China. The Dearborn, Michigan-based carmaker said last week it would shift Focus production there, a move U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer called “troubling.”

Ford’s president of global operations, Joe Hinrichs, said he doesn’t expect consumers will be concerned the Focus will be made in China, as they “care a lot more about the quality and the value than they do about the sourcing location.”

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Wiesenfelder said that’s probably the case, even if a recent Cars.com survey of auto shoppers found 25 percent would only consider buying from an American manufacturer, up from 13 percent in 2016.

“Consumers are more interested in the other factors like how well a vehicle meets their needs and how well it fits their family,” he said.

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