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What’s an American-made car? You’d be surprised

Cars.com analysis ranks Honda, Acura and Toyota models highly for impact on U.S. economy.

Jeep Cherokees sit on a lot at Fiat Chryslers’s Belvidere Assembly Plant on February 27, 2019 in Belvidere, Illinois.
Jeep Cherokees tops Cars.com’s 2019 analysis of which vehicles are the “most American.”
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When looking for an American-made vehicle, you can’t get more patriotic than a Ford Explorer, built here in Chicago, right?

Actually, you could. And with models that carry nameplates such as Honda, Acura and Toyota.

Cars.com’s 2019 analysis of which vehicles are the “most American,” published Tuesday, shows how confusing it is for buyers who want their purchase to help the U.S. economy. Consider not only the point of assembly, but the source of parts, especially engines and transmissions, and the factory employment relative to sales.

By those measures, the top vehicle on the 2019 American Made Index, as it was in 2018, is the Jeep Cherokee, built in Belvidere. But Honda trucks and SUVs made in Lincoln, Alabama, ranked second through fourth and seventh in Cars.com’s top 15. Acura, a division of Honda, had two models from East Liberty, Ohio, and Toyota had vehicles on the list from Georgetown, Kentucky, and San Antonio, Texas.

As for Chicago’s Explorer, it didn’t even qualify for this year’s list. Last year, it was No. 8. Kelsey Mays, senior editor at Cars.com, said the U.S.-Canadian parts content for the Explorer has dropped to 50 percent, below a 55 percent cutoff for the 2019 list.

The Ford Taurus, also from Chicago, is usually high on the list but was excluded for 2019 because it has been discontinued with no model as a successor.

Cars.com found that automakers have made few moves in their supply chains to address tariff concerns and a potential U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal. “Even if they had, manufacturing can’t change overnight,” Mays said. “A single vehicle has tens of thousands of parts from third-party suppliers across the globe.”

The website found in an accompanying survey of more than 1,000 people that buyers are concerned tariffs will hike vehicle prices.

The survey also found that younger buyers attach somewhat less importance to “buying American.” Of those aged 18-34, 61% thought a car purchase that aids the U.S. economy was important, while 71% of those aged 35-54 indicated the same.

Overall, Cars.com counted 120 models assembled in the United States, accounting for more than half of all domestic sales.

As for the “least American” of U.S. built autos, Cars.com points to General Motors’ full-size SUVS emanating from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but with only 41 percent of U.S. and Canadian content, or the Ford Ranger, built near Detroit, with 35 percent U.S. and Canadian content.

Courtesy of Cars.com