Jeep tops American-made list, bumping Toyota
Two Jeep SUVs assembled in Ohio — the Wrangler and the Cherokee — topped the Cars.com list of most American-made vehicles in a shake-up for the closely followed index.
The two vehicles made by Japanese automakers that previously topped the list, the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, have dropped out of the top 10, illustrating the complexity in determining what qualifies as genuinely American-made.
The newly formulated list gives six of its top 10 spots to the traditional Detroit Three —General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler — as they face political pressure to show off their American roots.
This year’s first- and second-place entries, Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Cherokee, are both assembled in Toledo.
“The Wrangler, as a descendant essentially of the military Jeep that helped the Allies win World War II, had pretty good American credentials to begin with,” Cars.com executive editor Joe Wiesenfelder said. “It seems to go even deeper than that.”
Ford’s Taurus sedan, assembled in Chicago, was third. Japanese automaker Honda’s Ridgeline pickup, made in Lincoln, Ala., and its Acura RDX, made in East Liberty, Ohio, placed fourth and fifth, respectively.
Cars.com said it has revamped its criteria to better reflect several factors. The study is now based on the following criteria: assembly plant location, the percentage of parts made in the U.S. used on the vehicle, the manufacturing location of the model’s engine and transmission, and the number of American workers the manufacturer employs compared to its U.S. sales.
The Wrangler and Cherokee, for example, respectively derive 74% and 70% of their parts from U.S. plants. And each vehicle gets all of its engines and nearly all of its transmissions from American plants.
One previous factor, sales volume, was discounted, which hurt the Camry and Accord. Those two midsize sedans have long been the best-selling cars in the U.S.
Earlier this month, another study, the annual Kogod Made in America Auto Index, concluded that the Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia are the most American-made vehicles.
The debate over which automakers produce the most American-made vehicles became more politically sensitive last year during the presidential campaign as Donald Trump attacked some automakers for making cars in Mexico, bashed free-trade agreements and pledged to force automakers to move more jobs back to the U.S.
In reality, automakers have been investing heavily and adding jobs in both the U.S. and Mexico during a seven-year growth period for U.S. industry sales.
But automakers also have showered their U.S. manufacturing investments with publicity since Trump took office and threatened to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. s. Often, announcements for U.S. investments have been in the planning stages for months or years but have still been touted as victories by Trump.
Trump’s pressure hasn’t stopped automakers from making tough business decisions. Ford, which had been a frequent target of criticism by Trump for deciding to move production of its Focus compact car from Michigan to Mexico, said last week it will make the Focus in China instead of Mexico.
And General Motors began importing its Buick Envision SUV from China last year.
Still, the auto industry likes the bragging rights of the American-made moniker. Over the past year, Toyota has repeatedly boasted about its position at the top of last year’s Cars.com’s rankings, even decking out a Camry in red-white-and-blue at the New York Auto Show in April.
And yet, few buyers choose their vehicles based on manufacturing location. In some cases, that’s because they don’t know or don’t bother to do the research. In others cases, they don’t care.
“It’s typically a very Rust Belt-centric part of the population that cares,” AutoPacific analyst Dave Sullivan said. “Even then, we’re splitting hairs here. Is an iPhone American because it’s an American company? Or is it Chinese since it is assembled there?”
Some 25% of survey respondents told Cars.com that they would consider buying vehicles only from American manufacturers, up from 13% a year earlier. But experts say that doesn’t show up in actual sales.
Moreover, experts expect the percentage of U.S.-sold vehicles that are made in Mexico to increase over the next several years, despite Trump’s NAFTA threats.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey. Cars.com is an independent publicly traded company but was formerly part of Gannett, which owns USA TODAY and the Detroit Free Press.
The top 10 most American made cars, according to Cars.com, and where they are made
- 1. Jeep Wrangler/Wrangler Unlimited; Toledo, Ohio
- 2. Jeep Cherokee; Toledo, Ohio
- 3. Ford Taurus; Chicago
- 4. Honda Ridgeline; Lincoln, Ala.
- 5. Acura RDX; East Liberty, Ohio
- 6. Ford F-150; Dearborn, Mich. and Claycomo, Mo.
- 7. Ford Expedition; Louisville, Ky.
- 8. GMC Acadia; Spring Hill, Tenn.
- 9. Honda Odyssey; Lincoln, Ala.
- 10 Honda Pilot; Lincoln, Ala.
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