There’s no better icon of the United States than a pickup truck, right? Not so fast. General Motors has moved some of its Chevrolet Silverado 1500/GMC Sierra 1500 assembly to Mexico and Ram now assembles all its heavy-duty trucks in Mexico. While Ford still assembles its F-150 in Michigan, 45% of the truck’s parts originate from outside the U.S. and Canada. Some industry analysts claim the Texas-built Toyota Tundra is the most American-made pickup truck. But economists warn that ranking “American-made” is not so simple.
Where is the Toyota Tundra assembled?
The Toyota Tundra was the first full-size truck built by a Japanese company in the U.S. The 1999 Tundra hailed from Indiana. But since 2009, Toyota has assembled every Tundra at its San Antonio Texas auto plant.
Toyota’s Texas plant is a 2,000-acre campus. A total of 3,200 Toyota employees work in San Antonio.
The automaker is heavily invested in the San Antonio community: Toyota sponsors scholarships and has helped with Texas disaster relief. The Toyota campus used to be larger, but the company actually gave 678 acres to the city of San Antonio for the city to convert into green space.
Toyota is proud of its Texas connection. The San Antonio campus is built on a ranch that was originally founded in 1794. This is how the western-themed Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition got its name.
How much of the Toyota Tundra is made in the US?
Not only is the Toyota Tundra assembled in San Antonio Texas, but 65% of its components come from the U.S. or Canada. Because many of Toyota’s suppliers reside on its San Antonio campus or nearby, a good portion of these parts come from Texas.
Toyota’s San Antonio campus is not only home to Toyota’s assembly plant. More than 4,000 additional Texans, working for Toyota’s suppliers, build components of the Tundra on the same campus.
Toyota has actually chosen Tundra component suppliers throughout Texas. The Center for Automotive Research estimates that Tundra production supports 50,000 Texas jobs. That’s like saying one in every 200 Texas workers helps with the Tundra.
Is the Tundra an American truck?
Because 65% of the Tundra’s parts originate in the U.S. or Canada and it’s assembled in San Antonio Texas, Cars.com named it the most “American-made” full-size pickup truck. But some economists argue that because Toyota’s headquartered abroad, the Tundra comes in second place–just behind the Ford F-150.
How do you measure American-made? The experts at Cars.com maintain an American-made index based on where the components of each new vehicle originate. Because Toyota assembles the Tundra in San Antonio, next door to many of its component manufacturers, Cars.com named it the most American-made full-size truck.
Cars.com only ranked one truck as more American-made than the Tundra: The Honda Ridgeline hailing from Lincoln, Alabama.
But the Kogod School of Business at the American University in Washington DC has a different opinion. Its economists also maintain a ranking of the most American-made vehicles. And the Kogod ranking is not based on where a vehicle’s parts come from, but where the dollars of your car or truck purchase goes.
Because Toyota is headquartered in Japan, Kogod diverts 3% of its purchase price to Japan for research and development and another 6% to Japan for profit. According to this calculation, slightly more money from a Ford F-150 purchase or a V6 Ram 1500 Classic purchase will stay in the U.S./Canada, than from a Toyota Tundra purchase. But the Tundra still beats out every other full-size truck.
What Kogod may not realize is how much of Toyota’s research and development happens in the U.S. Specifically, at its facilities in Texas, Michigan, Arizona, and California.
Buying a new pickup truck is a serious investment. And many buyers want to keep as much of that money local as possible. But today, buying an American-made pickup truck is more complicated than choosing a familiar brand from Detroit.
Meet the Texas workers assembling the Tundra or see NBC investigate how American your car is in the video below: