There’s been a lot of talk about the comeback of the “American” auto industry in recent months. And if you’re specifically discussing Detroit’s so-called Big Three, there are clearly signs they are on the mends following the near collapse of the Motor City in 2009.
But what really defines an American car company? These days, you’re likely to see TV commercials from a variety of brands all claiming that patriotic designation. BMW, Toyota, Hyundai, Subaru and Volkswagen are among the many foreign-owned makers who have emphasized their U.S. plant in a series of spots aired in recent months.
Clearly, the definition has blurred now that there are more than a score of “transplant” assembly plants operating on U.S. shores. So, that got the folks at Consumer Reports looking more closely at the list of products you’ll find at nearby showrooms to see which models actually roll off American assembly lines.
The non-profit publication counted 101 mainstream vehicles that qualified – though the number expanded significantly if you counted all the various trim packages. And when it came to which makers led and lagged there were some surprises.
Dominating the list were Chevrolet and Ford, with an even dozen each. At the other end of the spectrum, the Chrysler brand had just one, it’s new 200 model – which was the offering spotlighted by the maker’s high-profile “Imported from Detroit” ad campaign.
Add in all of its four surviving brands and GM had 27, Ford 14.
Toyota had the highest total among foreign-owned makers, with 9 U.S.-made offerings (though none wearing the Japanese giant’s Lexus or Scion brand badges). GMC and Honda followed, with 8 each, Nissan close behind with 7.
To complicate the picture, Consumer Reports also tallied up the number of American-made models that earned a recommendation from the magazine’s automotive editors. There, Toyota grabbed the lead, with 8, while Honda and Ford had 6 each, Chevrolet 5.
But hoping not to add further confusion, CR noted that 100% of the American-made models offered by seven makers got that coveted Recommended Buy rating: Acura, Buick, Hyundai, Infiniti, Kia, Mazda and Subaru. For Chrysler, it was a goose egg, the new 200 model not on the magazine’s list.
The story could, of course, get even more confusing were CR to have also considered where makers like Chevy, Toyota and Hyundai source their parts. Many models assembled in the U.S. rely on engines, transmissions and other components, large and small, imported from abroad.