Good Question: Which Cars Are The Most American?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The buzz about the Clint Eastwood Super Bowl ad for Chyrsler has put the issue of buying an American car back in the forefront. But in an age when some American cars are assembled overseas, and some Japanese cars are assembled in the U.S., which cars are the most “American?”

And which car company employs the most Americans?

“It’s really, really messy,” said Carlos Torelli, an assistant professor and global branding expert at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.

“The days when things were manufactured in only one place, those are long time gone,” Torelli said.

“You have to look at a global economy,” said Doug Sprinthall, of Walser Auto Group. “Ford is probably the most American of all, but they assemble them all over the world,” he said.

“Toyota is the biggest retailer in the world — builds a ton of cars in the United States,” said Sprinthall.

Toyota builds cars in Kentucky, Indiana and Texas. Honda is in Ohio and Alabama.

“Japanese manufacturers are building cars in the U.S. and shipping them back to Japan,” said Sprinthall, because of the exchange rate.

“Mazda told us that 80 percent of their production is in Japan now. They’re going to try to ship half of it into this country and other countries in the North America,” he said.

Researchers looking into the concept of the “Made In America” automobile look at two different metrics: (1) the number of jobs created in factories for each vehicle sold and (2) the overall number of American jobs.

When you factor in American parts, jobs and sales, reports that the most American-made car is the Toyota Camry.

“A Japanese company no one in the U.S. would believe is an American company,” Torelli said.

According to an ABC News analysis, for every 100 Camrys Toyota sells, 20 Americans get assembly line jobs.

The rest of the American-made list reads like this: Honda Accord, Chevy Malibu and Ford Explorer.

“Is it more important that the assembly line is in the U.S. or the corporate headquarters?” asked WCCO-TV’s Jason DeRusha. “That’s an excellent question,” Torelli said.

According to the Level Field Institute, a consortium of retirees from American automakers, at the end of 2009, American automakers had direct employment of 155,500 in 2009. Foreign automakers employed 100,000 Americans.

Of course, “Chrysler hasn’t been a U.S. company for many years,” noted Sprinthall. They were owned by Daimler, and now are part-owned by Italian automaker Fiat.

There is a big advantage to having a headquarters in the United States. General Motors has 77,000 American workers. Ford has 76,000. Chrysler ended 2011 with 52,000. By comparison, Toyota has close to 30,000. The Toyota has fewer than 100 employees in New York City.

“Really the know-how to make the car a better car is most likely to happen here if it’s a company headquartered in the U.S.,” Torelli said.

And that’s why he said Chrysler, despite its partial-ownership by an Italian car company, can authentically claim to be “Imported From Detroit.”

More from Jason DeRusha
  • scott

    Gee my 2010 Chyrsler states “Made in Canada”. Chyrsler has some false advertisement with what they are airing.

  • spanky

    I owned two Chyrsler products and both were junk. Bad transmissions, cracked heads, blown head gaskets, etc…Never again!

  • jimmy

    Let me guess Jason used 2009 numbers because 2010 numbers didn’t fit his agenda.

  • Learn to Write

    Sloppy writing. I’ll give this story a C. And no actual conclusion. Make it a C-.

  • OMG

    06 Chyrsler at 48,000 miles is the worst vehicle I ever owned. 245,000 miles on my 02 Accord, running strong, is my best.

  • Kevin

    Clint Eastwood speaks out on Super Bowl ad…..The “Gran Torino” director went on the defensive Monday, dismissing suggestions that the ad is a partisan love letter to President Obama.

    “Detroit that – home to the second largest Arab population outside the Middle East – some call “America’s Muslim capital.”

    “Detroit named nation’s most dangerous city”

    “Michigan persistently lowest achieving schools’

    “Survey finds Detroit has lowest standard of living in United States”

    “Detroit joblessness worst among big cities
    Metro area unemployment rate hits 14.9% in May, even before General Motors’ bankruptcy is taken into account.”

    You I love you Clint….but you really need to pull your head out of Obami’s arse. Detroit is dead….and all your bs wont bring it back…..but you are right…Detroit is the “real America”….all muslim, and full of crime….

    • what!?!

      Ignorance is indeed bliss!!

    • Stands in a lot

      Hey, the question wasn’t ” Which cars are the most native”

  • Richard

    Sounds like The U.S employs alot more people than anyone else, I’ll keep buying The American brand, and hope it helps the U.S. economy!.

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