Is a Car Produced in Alabama Really an Import?

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

The Honda Odyssey below is built in Lincoln, Alabama. Can this really qualify as an "imported" vehicle?

From the Detroit News comes this article "Auto Team Drives Imports: Fed Task Force Has Few New U.S. Cars,"

The vehicles owned by the Obama administration's auto team could reflect one reason why Detroit's Big Three automakers are in trouble: The list includes few new American cars.

Among the eight members named Friday to the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry and the 10 senior policy aides who will assist them in their work, two own American models. Add the Treasury Department's special adviser to the task force and the total jumps to three.

The Detroit News reviewed public records to discover what many of the task force and staff members drove, but information was not available on all of the officials, and records for some states were not complete.

The article mentions that OMB Director Peter Orszag, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, and Jared Bernstein, Vice President Joe Biden's chief economist, all own Honda (NYSE:HMC) Odysseys. Rick Wade, a senior adviser at the Commerce Department previously owned a 1998 Toyota (NYSE:TM) Corolla. OMB Director Orszag and Heather Zichal, deputy director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change, both own Volvos. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner once owned a Honda Accord.

And those examples above illustrate the confusion about "imports" vs. "American" cars: Honda Odysseys (pictured above) are built in the USA (Alabama), the Toyota Corolla is built in California by UAW workers (that's not an import), Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F) owns Volvo, and some Honda Accords are built in the USA (in addition to Mexico and Japan).

From a previous CD post, slightly revised:

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 an import"?

American-made UAW vehicles:
Mazda 6
Mitsubishi Eclipse
Mitsubishi Galant
Toyota 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. Wouldn't they qualify as an "import"?:

Canadian-made UAW vehicles:
Buick Lacrosse
Chevrolet Impala
Chrysler 300
Dodge Challenger

Dodge Charger
Ford 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? Aren't those imports despite the American-sounding names of Chevy and Chrysler?

4. What about the 2008 Honda 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

Bottom Line: When it comes to cars, trying to define an "imported" or "American" car will drive you crazy! The Detroit News should know better....