Can you even call these cars American anymore?
Using publicly available data, the American University of Washington keeps a list of cars and the percentage of how American made they are. It’s not just a question of parts, they take seven areas into account, namely: profit margin based on the location of the automakers headquarters; labor in terms of where the car is assembled; the location of the models research and development; inventory and expenses based on location; where the engine and then the transmission is produced; and where the body, chassis, and electrical components are produced.
You may have seen articles about the most American produced cars and in 2018 that was headed by the Jeep Cherokee. What surprised many was that the Honda Odyssey and Honda Ridgeline took up second and third spot. Given the rhetoric of our current president over the past couple of years about the auto industry, it’s worth remembering that the major car manufacturers are global and the world is round. Hence, Ford and Chevrolet were the only American manufacturers in the top ten of most American-produced automobiles.
Specifically, it’s the Buick Envision AWD Premium 2.0 model that comes in at 2% American made. The Envision is built in China by SAIC-GM and was available there for two years before it came to the United States, and it was the first Chinese built GM vehicle sold in America. This, of course, resulted in a backlash from the United Auto Workers who wanted the Envision built in the United States. Whether the Envision will keep being sold in America will come down to how the trade war with China plays out over tariffs. The basic Envision model comes in at 10% American made.
Sadly for the old American brand name, the Encore Premium AWD and Sport Touring models are also on this list, and come in at only 4% American made. The Encore is essentially the North American version of the Opel Mokka and the first generation was built in Bupyeong, South Korea and Shanghai in China, but now it’s only built for the US market in Shanghai. The Chevrolet Trax also comes in at 4% and 10%, depending on the model, and shares the same platform as the Encore.
The Cascada is another Opel car, but Buick’s first convertible since the almost instantly forgettable Reatta and it's also made in Poland. Despite that, it is notable for being designed by Andrew Dyson, the man behind the Chrysler Crossfire’s looks, and Elizabeth Wetzel as Buick’s head of interior design. We're fans of the Cascada, but sadly it looks like it will come to an end this summer.
The Ecosport has been around since 2003 and originally built in Brazil, but the second generation is also built in India, Thailand, Russia, and Romania for the world market, and was developed at the Ford Brazil Development Center. For the US market, the Ecosport is built in Ford India’s Chennai plant.
The Fiesta is truly a world car and started off being built in Cologne, Germany and Dunton, a small town in Essex, England in the 1970s. Since then, it’s been built all over the world for many different markets. Currently, it’s built in Cuautitlán-Izcalli, Mexico, for the North American market.
While the Cherokee may be very much American made, the Compass is only 17% so. Jeep’s pint-size slice of its own off-roading market was assembled in Illinois but has since moved to Toluca, Mexico. It’s also manufactured in Brazil and India for other markets.
This one is definitely a curveball as the Ford GT is actually assembled in Ontario, Canada, and the skunkworks style development started in Dearborn, Michigan. Our assumption is that it’s in the cost of materials and parts as well outside development of specialized engineering and the lack of profit from selling such a low production model that bring the percentage down.
Final assembly of the Chevy Bolt happens in Detroit, but the battery, drivetrain, HVAC, instruments, and entertainment systems are all assembled in South Korea. Development happened here in America, and the 50 prototypes were hand built at the General Motors Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan before traveling around the world for testing. The $160 million upgrades to the Ohio plant will have helped up the Bolt in points However, the Bolt has been produced at a loss.
It’s specifically the Sport, Trailhawk, and Latitude 4x4 models that drop in at 22%. The Renegade is an interesting one as it’s on the FCA Small/Wide 4x4 platform developed in Turin, Italy. Hence, the Fiat 500 is a close relative of the Renegade and it’s assembled in Melfi, Italy.
The Regal is another Buick car that’s based on an Opel and, in this case, it’s the Insignia. It was designed and developed in Germany, but the Buick version sells well in China, where it’s also assembled. We don’t get the Chinese built models though. Instead, we get the ones exported here from Opel in Rüsselsheim, Germany.
Like its Ford Fusion sibling, the MKZ is manufactured at Ford’s Hermosillo Stamping & Assembly plant in Sonora, Mexico and Flat Rock Assembly Plant, Michigan. It is a rebadged Fusion, and the second generation design was led by Ford of Europe. However, because it was designed under Ford’s One-Car strategy as a world car, the lead designer was based in Detroit with support from Ford of Europe’s studios in Germany and the United Kingdom. Curiously, the lowest percentage given for Ford Fusion models is 30%
The Journey is a global vehicle from Dodge, however, it’s only manufactured in Toluca, Mexico. It’s now Dodge’s smallest SUV, although it’s mainly sold to members of the minivan demographic that are clearly in denial.
Cadillac’s full-size luxury car is actually built in Detroit, and only the Chinese version is built in China. GM is planning to move production from the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant in January 2020 when it closes. There was confusion over whether the CT6 would end completely then, but GM is on record saying that won’t be the case now, and a spokesperson made it clear importing them from China is not desirable. It seems to be on borrowed time though as engine options keep getting dropped.