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Made in the USA: What It Means To Buy American: American Cars

Made in the USA Back in 1984 when Bruce Springsteen scored one of his biggest hits with “Born in the U.S.A” things were a bit different in the auto industry. Most all Japanese and European cars were just that — built in Japan and in Europe. The Big Three built most of its cars at the time in the U.S.A with some sites in Canada and Mexico proving exceptions but not the rule. Being made in the USA was a source of pride. But then, with the weakening of the value of the U.S. dollar and currency fluctuations around the globe it became prudent business sense for Japanese and European automakers to start building cars on U.S. soil. Honda, which opened its first U.S. Accord plant in Marysville, Ohio in 1985 just last year built 81% of its cars in the United States and Canada with a similar percentage of U.S. sourced parts content. Made in America What all of this has meant are more jobs for U.S. workers as the market share and production needs of the Big Three declined through the 80’s until now. But if a Honda Accord is built in Ohio mainly with parts sourced here, does that make it an American car? This is a question that economists and industry pundits have wrestled with for years. Some say that it doesn't matter if a foreign automaker is employing U.S. workers when the profit they make from selling the cars just goes back to their home country and doesn’t stay in the U.S.A. This argument does make sense on the surface of things, as the main reason foreign brands build cars here is to increase their profit margins (building cars in Japan and Europe has become increasingly expensive). Even Korea’s Hyundai and Kia brands both recently opened vast multi-billion dollar factories in Georgia and Alabama. The foreign car company that made the smartest entrance into the U.S market was Fiat - it was given all of Chrysler/Jeep’s manufacturing capacity and inlaid corporate structure by the U.S. Government for free after that automaker declared bankruptcy a few years back. Sure, Fiat got the bargain of the century and a strong toehold into the second biggest car market in the world (after China, surprisingly) but Fiat also funneled a lot of their own technology and cash into keeping a lot of U.S. manufacturing sites from closing forever. That would have devastated our national economy. Buying American Made Cars Most other automakers like VW have to spend billions to assemble enormous manufacturing sites as this German brand recently did at a site in Chattanooga, Tennessee where they assemble the Passat with 41% U.S. parts content. Oddly enough, there are many Big Three vehicles assembled in Canada and Mexico with a lower U.S. part content than either the aforementioned Accord or Passat. So are they still American cars? That is a question only you can answer for yourself. If you are in the market for a new car and want to know where it was built and the parts content percentages just look on the window sticker of any new car. That way you can always be sure what you are buying and decide for yourself if it’s “Made in the U.S.A.”


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