It takes a lot to put together an automobile these days. The process might involve corporations based overseas with U.S. factories making cars that have parts sourced from Canada and Mexico. Or it might involve cars with American brand names built in Mexico with parts sourced overseas. In other words, calling a car “American” isn’t what it used to be.
The Made in America Auto Index, published annually by Frank Dubois of American University’s Kogod School of Business, attempts to reconcile these factors in a satisfying way. Among the many lessons learned in reviewing DuBois’s work, we see how a Toyota Camry is more worthy of the “American” label than that warrior of the rugged road, the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
First, we take a look at the points each vehicle put on the board. The Made in America index factors in production sites for the body, interior, chassis, and electrical work of the car (50%); site of engine production (14%); source of inventory and capital for the vehicle’s assembly (11%); site of transmission production (7%); source of labor (6%); site of research and development (6%); and where profits finally land, here or abroad (6%).
Based on this complex formula, Toyota Camry landed a score of 78.5 to the Grand Cherokee’s 76.5. The scores are close, certainly, but the perception of Jeep as all things American gets dinged in this comparison, even with the Fiat takeover of The Chrysler Group in recent years. According to the work by Dubois and his research team, the source of body and chassis components is the main reason Camry is more American than Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Out of a possible 50, Grand Cherokee posted 32.5 points for the body, chassis, and electrical components, which means about 36% of these materials come from overseas. Elsewhere, this Jeep gets docked 5.5 of 6.0 points for the site of its foreign headquarters (i.e., Italy), accounting for the full round of demerits.
Toyota Camry, of course, receives zero of the 6.0 possible points for its Japanese headquarters. Otherwise, the engine production, site of assembly, and labor were pure American for the nation’s favorite car. Camry notched 37.5 out of a possible 50 for the source of its body, electrical, and chassis components. Three points were forfeited for the split of research and development between the United States and Japan.
Add it up and you have a Camry that’s more American. Using this information, it’s not so easy to say “buy American” based on a car’s emblem. The 428,606 Americans who picked up a Camry in 2014 were buying one of the most American rides on the lot. In fact, not even Ford Mustang (77.5) could wave the red,white, and blue at Camry. Camaro (66.5) was even farther down on the list. Talk about cruel ironies.
Source: Made in America Auto Index