What's an American Car These Days?

 |  Includes: F, GM, HMC, MITEY, TM
by: Mark J. Perry

We've heard a lot lately about the “Buy American” provisions being debated in the economic stimulus bill, and that made me think about how increasingly difficult, and increasingly meaningless, it is to even determine what "Buy American" really means in an increasingly globalized world economy. Consider automobiles - how do you tell the difference any more between "American cars" and "foreign cars."

1. Here's a list of 8 "American-made" vehicles produced by American UAW workers, in American factories, but for foreign-based car companies. If you purchased one of these vehicles, would that count as "buying American"?

American-made UAW vehicles:

  • Mazda 6
  • Mitsubishi (OTCPK:MITEY) Eclipse
  • Mitsubishi Galant
  • Toyota (NYSE:TM) Corolla
  • Isuzu i-Series Truck
  • Mazda B-series Truck
  • Mitsubishi Raider Truck
  • Toyota Tacoma Truck

2. What about these nine Canadian-made vehicles, produced by UAW brothers and sisters at factories in Canada, for the U.S.-based Detroit Three. They can't qualify as "American-Made" can they?:

Canadian-made UAW vehicles:

  • Buick Lacrosse
  • Chevrolet Impala
  • Chrysler 300
  • Dodge Challenger
  • Dodge Charger
  • Ford (NYSE:F) Crown Victoria
  • Lincoln Town Car
  • Mercury Grand Marquis
  • Pontiac Grand Prix

3. What about the Chevy Aveo, which is built by Korean automaker Daewoo for Detroit-based General Motors (NYSE:GM)? Or the Chrysler PT Cruiser, built in Mexico?

4. What about the 2008 Honda (NYSE:HMC) Pilot and Honda Civics, built in the U.S. with higher domestic content (70%) than the 2008 Dodge Ram (68%) and the Michigan-built Ford Mustang (65%).

5. What about the Toyota Tundra, Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey, which rank #5, #6 and #7 for the "Top American-Made Cars" in 2008 by Cars.com?