Before you decide you want to buy an American car, you might want to take a look at the Made in America Auto Index released every year by the Kogod School of Business at American University. Kogod’s Frank DuBois, a professor who specializes in the global automotive supply chain, conducts research that gets to the bottom of how American a car really is.
Every vehicle gets a score between zero and 100 based on where the parts were sourced, where the assembly took place, the site of research and development, home of corporate headquarters and several other factors. Perhaps reassuringly, GM and Ford take most of the top spots. However, a little down on the list, you can find Toyota vehicles that have more American content than a Jeep Cherokee. You’ll also find Hondas with far more American content than, say, the Chevy Caprice cop car that hounded you on the highway last weekend.
In other words, it takes a lot more than an American brand name on a car to make it American. Here are the 10 most American cars made by foreign companies — all of which have more American content than the Chevy Camaro.
Note: The bottom seven of these 10 vehicles tied for the 12th best score overall, while the top three on our list tied for the ninth best score in the annual study.
(Tie) 10-4. Toyota Avalon
Toyota’s full-size Avalon sedan scored high on the Made in America Auto Index with a point total of 76 out of 100. Most of the deductions came from body, chassis, and interior components made outside the U.S, while the Avalon was also docked for overseas research and development and, of course, where profits of its sales ultimately land (i.e., Japan). Nonetheless, the Avalon has more American content than a Chevy SS or a number of other cars you might consider national products.
(Tie) 10-4. Toyota Tundra
According to the Kogod index, the Toyota Tundra (76 points) has more American content than the Chevy Silverado (72.5 points), making the full-size pickup question a bit tougher for some. (Ford’s F-Series ties for third place with 82.5 points.) Like Avalon, Tundra lost 15 points for body and interior components, six points for Toyota’s overseas headquarters and three points for R&D not taking place on American soil. Otherwise, this truck is pretty darn American.
(Tie) 10-4. Honda Crosstour
Honda Motor Company took six of the top 10 spots among foreign automakers with the most American content in their cars. The Crosstour checks in tied for 12th place overall with its score of 76 out of 100. Crosstour lost points on interior and chassis components, profits going overseas, and research and development taking place outside the U.S. What remained made it more American than the Ford Flex, among others.
(Tie) 10-4. Honda Pilot
The Honda Pilot was yet another foreign-branded vehicle with a great deal of American content. Its 76 points rank it above the GMC Terrain (66.5) and Dodge Durango R/T (63.5), just to name a few. Pilot is not American in some body and interior components as well as the site of Honda’s headquarters and where some R&D takes place. Beyond that, consumers could end up with a vehicle far less American than a Pilot.
(Tie) 10-4. Honda CR-V
The Honda CR-V is a massive volume seller in the U.S. (eighth overall in the U.S. in 2014), and those buyers were driving home a vehicle that is mostly American. From its site of assembly, engine and transmission construction, and the majority of its body and interior components, CR-V fits the bill for those hoping to buy American, whatever that means in 2015. It tops the Jeep Grand Cherokee as well as many other vehicles wearing an American badge.
(Tie) 10-4. Honda Accord
Speaking of volume sellers, the midsize Accord was No. 5 on the U.S. sales list in 2014. Those 388,376 buyers got themselves a Honda scoring 76 points on the Made in America Auto Index, containing much more American content than a Buick Regal (64) or Chrysler 300 (57.5). Like the other cars tied for fourth through 10th place on this list, Accord only lost points for some body components and the site of Honda’s headquarters.
(Tie) 10-4. Acura RDX
Honda also has its luxury brand building cars that are as American as they come. The Acura RDX (both two-wheel drive and four-wheel-drive) scored a total of 76 for its U.S. assembly, site of transmission and engine production, inventory and capital expenses, and the majority of its body materials. That puts its way ahead of utility vehicles like GMC Terrain Denali (54 points) or Ford Escape (63.5 points).
(Tie) 3-1. Toyota Sienna
Tied for ninth place overall on the Made in America index was the Toyota Sienna with a score of 78.5 points. Sienna had more body and chassis components sourced in the U.S. than dozens of vehicles wearing the badge of a U.S. company, including the Ford Mustang. For those in the market for a minivan, buyers hoping to shop “American” would do far worse in a Chrysler Town & Country (64 points) than a Sienna.
(Tie) 3-1. Toyota Camry
Only the Detroit pickup trucks outsold the Toyota Camry in 2014, when 425,000 units of America’s favorite car roll of U.S. lots. Of the Silverado, Ram 1500, and F-150 that outpaced it, only Ford’s pickup could claim more American content than Camry, which scored 78.5 points on the Made in America Auto Index. Camry lost points only in parts of its body components and in the foreign site of Toyota’s headquarters. Still, it came out more American than a Ford Fusion.
(Tie) 3-1. Honda Odyssey
Tied for ninth place overall and for most American of foreign cars was the Honda Odyssey minivan. Odyssey scored 78.5 points for its U.S.-sourced engine, transmission, and most body components. Compared to the Dodge Grand Caravan (64.5 points), there was no contest.
Maybe the biggest lesson we learned form these scores is how much the global auto industry has changed. “Buying American” is a murkier concept than ever before. You certainly can’t trust a car’s emblem to offer guidance on that front.
Source: Kogod Made in America Auto Index