If you’re looking for a new vehicle and want to make sure it has plenty of American-made parts and components you might want to look at the Lincoln Corsair. The compact SUV tops all other products in the latest “Made in America Auto Index,” an annual look at which products have, among other factors, the highest level of parts and labor from the U.S. and Canada.
Detroit’s Big Three automakers readily dominate the chart. Tesla also landed in the Top 10 along with Honda, the only foreign-owned brand on the list. However, foreign makers made big gains on this year’s list.
“VW, Toyota, Hyundai/Kia, Nissan, and Honda all increased their U.S. content while GM, Ford, and Stellantis presented drops in domestic sourcing,” according to American University’s Kogod Business School, which conducts the annual study.
Some big surprises
The 2022 Index delivered a number of surprises. Where the Ford Mustang — with a manual transmission — was the No. 1 model last year, it slid all the way to 22nd place this year because the automaker switched to a gearbox made in Mexico. But Ford Motor Co. still managed to top the chart. Two versions of its Lincoln Corsair, one with a gas engine and the other with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain, jumped 44 spots to nab a tie for first.
The two models had a score of 86 points, according to the Kogod school. “This represents a huge shift from (the prior year),” a summary of the study said, “when (Corsair) contained 25% U.S./Canadian content and a foreign-sourced engine. In 2022, the Corsair is made of 72% U.S./Canadian content and a U.S.-made engine.”
To pull together the Made in America Auto Index the Kogod Business School works with the Center for Automotive Research based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It considers seven criteria to determine how much American (and Canadian) content go into each vehicle. These include engines; transmissions; body, chassis and electric components; labor; and research and development; as well as the source of inventory, capital and other expenses; and profit margin — which is based on where a company is headquartered.
No car is an island
No vehicle is wholly American. As the ongoing shortage of mostly Asian-made semiconductors demonstrates, automotive manufacturing relies on a complex network of suppliers — as well as a global R&D system and worldwide sources of capital.
And a vehicle topping the charts one year can plunge precipitously due to a simple change in sourcing of a key component, as well as the move from one assembly plant to another. The Mustang’s score dropped by 14 points this year while falling from 1st to 22nd place.
Who are the leaders?
Ford had a strong showing overall. Due to numerous ties, 24 vehicles actually ranked within the top 10. And that included not only two versions of the Lincoln Corsair but three of its trucks: the Ranger and F-150 pickups, as well as the Bronco SUV.
Tesla also had five models in the Top 10, starting with the second-ranked Model 3 Long-Range. The EV upstart was a latecomer to the index. The first time it qualified was the 2013 model year when its highest-ranked product, the Model S came in at 14th place.
General Motors had three products in the Top 10, two from Chevrolet, the Corvette and Colorado as well as its GMC sibling, the Canyon.
And Honda landed four models in that group, starting with the off-road-oriented Passport Trailsport.
But no one matched Stellantis which placed seven models from two of its brands, including the Dodge Durango Citadel and Jeep Cherokee Latitude.
There were more SUVs among those 24 top-ranked models, at 10, along with seven sedans. The rest of the list included pickups and sports cars.
More changes coming
Looking forward, domestic automakers could drop in the Made in America Auto Index, even as foreign-owned manufacturers gain ground, the Kogod study said.
The latest analyst “reveals an increasing focus from foreign manufacturers on increasing their U.S. manufacturing footprint,” even as the domestics “have been more likely to look to Mexican suppliers for many of their parts and components” due to the NAFTA trade agreement.
Researchers did not address how new technologies, battery-electric vehicles, in particular, might lead to further changes.
Under the Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress earlier this year, there’s been a major change to the federal electric vehicle incentive program. It now limits where EVs can be produced to qualify for up to $7,500 in credits. That includes not only the place where they’re assembled but also where their batteries and raw materials come from.
That has led to a number of announcements by EV manufacturers who plan to set up new production plants in the U.S. in the coming years, while they also line up new sources for raw materials used in batteries, such as lithium, cobalt and nickel.