Recently, much media attention has been focused on the Cars.com "American-Made Index" which had the Ford F-150's "out-Americaning" the Toyota Camry based on domestic content. This is an important bragging point because "Buy American" has long been a watch phrase for many in the U.S. Whether it's patriotism or concern for the economy, these buyers want to buy a real American car or truck.
The problem is determining which vehicles are American.
In an effort to help consumers, every light vehicle contains somewhere on the Monroney Label (the "window sticker") a domestic content statement that has been required by the American Automobile Labeling Act (AALA) since 1994. The label must contain:
- 1. The percentage U.S./Canadian equipment (parts) content;
- 2. The names of any countries other than the U.S. and Canada which individually contribute 15 percent or more of the equipment content, and the percentage content for each such country (a maximum of two countries);
- 3. The final assembly point by city and state (where appropriate), and country;
- 4. The country of origin of the engine;
- 5. The country of origin of the transmission; and
- 6. A statement which explains that parts content does not include final assembly (except the engine and transmission), distribution, or other non-parts costs.
However, the standards used by the American Automobile Labeling Act have a lot of wiggle room. For one thing, Canada is counted as what amounts to a 51st state in that Canadian assembly is counted the same as assembly in a plant located in the U.S. In addition, the AALA rating covers an entire car line, so even vehicles not made in the U.S. still count as domestic vehicles.
Associate Professor Frank DuBois is an expert in supply chain management who teaches at the American University's Kogod School of Business. Recognizing the limitations of the AALA standards, he created a formula that more accurately describes what is and what is not an "American car." According to DuBois, the Kogod Made in America Auto Index is a better measure of a vehicle's nationality.
According to DuBois, the Made in America Auto Index “gives consumers more knowledge, and knowledge is power.”
The Kogod Made in America Auto Index includes the following factors:
- Profit Margin: Where the profits go. In other words, where is the automaker's global headquarters?
- Labor:> Where the vehicle is assembled.
- Research and Development
- Inventory, Capital, and Other Expenses: Location of assembly where the money is spent.
- Engine and Transmission: Location of production
- Body, Interior, Chassis, Electrical, and Other: Location of production
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration AALA "Domestic Content" Score
Based on the Made in America list, neither the Ford F-150 nor the Toyota Camry is No.1. That honor goes to a three-way tie between the GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse.
However, at No. 2 we find the Dodge Avenger, the most "American" car available, tied with the Ford F-150. The Avenger was third on the Cars.com list and was the only Chrysler Group vehicle included. At No. 3 on the Kogod Made in America Auto Index is the Chrysler 200 followed by a three-way tie for fourth wiht the Jeep Wrangler, Compass and Patriot. At the No. 6 spot, it's a three-way tie between the Dodge Durango, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 pickup.
Chrysler Group was second only to General Motors in the number of vehicles that can be counted as American-made by the more rigorous standards: Ford had just three, the F-150, Mustang and Taurus.
And the Camry? One of six vehicles tied for twelfth place.