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Save your job! Buy American!

Cars and trucks that are made in the U.S.A.
By Christian Wardlaw

Ford & GM = Trouble

"What is good for America is good for General Motors, and vice versa." That's what GM CEO Charlie Wilson told the U.S. Senate in 1955 when his company controlled half of the automotive market share in the United States.

Today, such arrogance would be misplaced. GM and its cross-town rival, Ford Motor Company, are in deep trouble. Wall Street has downgraded both from investment grade to junk bond status. Market share is plunging, health care costs are skyrocketing, product is aging, and neither has a reputation for long-term quality and durability. This, despite steady quality gains and the recent introductions of several appealing new models that meet, if not exceed, the standards set by imports.

To combat the rising costs of doing business and accept new market realities, during the next several years GM is slicing 25,000 jobs, closing assembly plants, and shrinking product lines. Bill Ford, chairman and CEO of Ford Motor Company, is valiantly refusing compensation until he turns his company around while simultaneously slicing 2,700 positions from the corporate payroll. These trends continue a downward spiral for GM and Ford, which have lost a combined 1.15 million sales and have closed (or are about to close) four U.S. assembly plants since the start of the 21st century.

And it’s not just Ford and GM that are struggling. Subaru, which operates an assembly plant in Indiana, has joined the two biggest domestic automakers in the junk-bond category despite one of the most impressive reliability records of any car brand sold in America.

Fifty years after Wilson testified before the Senate, his assertion never rang truer. But now, what’s bad for GM (and Ford, and any car maker designing, developing, and manufacturing cars in the U.S.) is bad for the country. Whether you realize it or not, this shrinking of the domestic automobile industry directly affects you.

According to Forbes magazine, nine percent of the U.S. gross domestic product is generated by the automobile industry, impacting the livelihoods of millions of Americans. But those livelihoods aren’t solely dependent on ailing GM and Ford; several Asian and European automakers have invested heavily within U.S. borders. Known as “transplants,” these overseas automakers directly or indirectly employ hundreds of thousands of people in the United States. From design studios and proving grounds to research and development facilities and assembly plants, transplants are investing billions of dollars into the U.S. economy to build state-of-the-art automobiles, taking up the slack where GM and Ford have left off.

Still, the sales of imported vehicles built outside of our borders continue to impact our collective bottom lines. Overall, the U.S. market that has seen a five-year decline of half a million units sold, yet import sales have risen here by about 550,000 – mainly in trucks. The result is that homegrown U.S. vehicle production has dwindled by more than one million units since 1999, leaving small American companies, small American towns, and hard working Americans unemployed.

Fortunately, as assembly plants have closed in northern regions of the U.S., transplants have been opening huge, state-of-the-art facilities in the Deep South. Three are open now, and a fourth ribbon-cutting ceremony for a Toyota Tundra truck-building factory in San Antonio, Texas, is slated for 2006.

But we, as Americans, cannot expect foreign companies to ensure the health of our economy. Ultimately, the responsibility to make sure America, and Americans, remain economically viable rests in our hands. We must buy American.

Buy any car or truck built within our borders and support local economies from South Carolina to northern California – and don't forget, your choices go beyond Ford and Chevy. Among the many “transplant” automakers on U.S. soil are BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, and Toyota.

Buying American can be defined two ways. The old-school definition relies on where the ultimate profit goes when you buy a car. The modern definition, based on the reality of a global economy, considers the impact of your purchase on local economies.

OLD SCHOOL

Traditionally, when it comes to cars, buying American means purchasing anything made by the Big Three – Chrysler, Ford, GM – or the companies they own and operate or have invested in.

Chrysler used to be an American company based in Auburn Hills, Michigan, but merged with DaimlerBenz a few years back and is now headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. Technically, profit dollars from the sale of Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep products get shipped across the Atlantic to der faterland for conversion into Euros. We no longer consider Chrysler Group products to be “American” in the traditional sense.

Ford Motor Company is based in Dearborn, Michigan. Ford’s brand portfolio, the roster of vehicle makes that the company sells, includes Aston Martin, Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercury, and Volvo.

General Motors is based in Detroit, Michigan. GM’s brand portfolio includes Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Hummer, Pontiac, Saab, and Saturn. GM also owns a substantial stake in each of these Japanese automakers: Isuzu, Subaru and Suzuki.

Buy any one of these Ford or GM vehicles, and profit dollars ultimately land in the Great Lakes State, lining the coffers of two huge corporations that have, historically, paid top executives ridiculous amounts of salary, benefits, bonuses, and stock options to let market dominance erode.

MODERN REALITY

Ford and GM also build cars outside of the U.S., in places like Canada, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, England, and Sweden. Given the swing toward global economies during the past few decades, this is natural and necessary to compete on a worldwide scale.

But, if you’d rather support local economies, you should try to buy a car or truck assembled within the borders of the United States. In addition to Ford and GM, companies like Honda, Nissan, and Toyota are investing in the U.S. to make sure our nation’s small towns and working-class heroes can continue to pay the mortgage, send the kids to school, and put food on the table. Screw those high-powered execs that have squandered market share over the past half-century – give the money to the little guy!

Cars and trucks built by foreign automakers within the United States wear Acura, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Toyota badges. Because DaimlerChrysler is a German corporation, we include Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles in this category as well.

AMERICAN MADE

Pick your poison, or combine our Old-School and Modern Reality definitions for buying American and select a Ford or GM product that is assembled within the U.S. To help you make a decision, we’ve compiled a handy guide that shows what models are made in the U.S.A., indexed by make. This list does not include models that are assembled in Canada and Mexico – that’s why vehicles like the Buick Rendezvous, Chevy Impala, Chrysler 300, and Mercury Grand Marquis are absent. That’s right, Grandpa, your chrome-bedecked turnpike cruiser came from the Great White North.

Buy American! You might not only save the jobs of others, but also your own.

  • Buick LeSabre – Orion Township, Michigan Buick Lucerne – Hamtramck, Michigan Buick Park Avenue – Orion Township, Michigan Buick Rainier – Moraine, Ohio Buick Terraza – Doraville, Georgia

Buick wants to be America’s Lexus, but it’s got a long way to go. Until the promising 2006 Lucerne arrives, your American-built choices are limited to the Terraza minivan, Rainier sport/utility, Park Avenue luxo-cruiser, and LeSabre retiree special.

  • Cadillac CTS – Lansing, Michigan Cadillac DeVille – Hamtramck, Michigan Cadillac DTS – Hamtramck, Michigan Cadillac Escalade – Arlington, Texas Cadillac SRX – Lansing, Michigan Cadillac STS – Lansing, Michigan Cadillac XLR – Bowling Green, Kentucky

In recent years, Cadillac has remade itself into a world-class competitor by creating luxurious vehicles equipped with sophisticated technology and dressed in distinctive sheetmetal. Quality is also better than ever, if not quite to Lexus and BMW standards. This luxury division of General Motors will complete its metamorphosis this fall with the release of the DTS, which replaces the DeVille in the lineup. Most modern Cadillacs are stylish and fun to drive. Resale values continue to lag primary competitors, but otherwise, the new generation of Cadillacs is an impressive lineup.

  • Chevrolet Cobalt – Lordstown, Ohio Chevrolet Colorado – Shreveport, Louisiana Chevrolet Corvette – Bowling Green, Kentucky Chevrolet Express – Wentzville, Missouri Chevrolet Malibu – Kansas City, Missouri Chevrolet Malibu Maxx – Kansas City, Missouri Chevrolet Silverado – Flint, Michigan; Pontiac, Michigan; Ft. Wayne, Indiana Chevrolet SSR – Lansing, Michigan Chevrolet Suburban – Arlington, Texas and ; Janesville, Wisconsin Chevrolet Tahoe – Arlington, Texas and Janesville, Wisconsin Chevrolet TrailBlazer – Moraine, Ohio Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Chevrolet Uplander – Doraville, Georgia

Notice that the Chevrolet Equinox, Impala and Monte Carlo aren’t listed here. That’s because they’re built in Canada, eh, along with a third of the Silverados for sale. And the new HHR, the Avalanche, and some Suburbans, come from south of the border. Otherwise, you can safely assume that a resident of the United States put any bow-tied car or truck together. Our favorites: Cobalt, especially the SS; Corvette; and SSR.

  • Chrysler Sebring Convertible – Sterling Heights, Michigan Chrysler Sebring Coupe – Normal, Illinois Chrysler Sebring Sedan – Sterling Heights, Michigan Chrysler Town & Country – St. Louis, Missouri

The hot-selling 300 and extremely safe Pacifica are built in Canada, PT Cruisers are made in Mexico, and the Crossfire hails from Germany, so that leaves this rag-tag group of winged-badge products to represent Chrysler’s Buy American contingent. The Town & Country has a slick Stow ‘n Go seating system that’s handy for people who haul both people and cargo on a regular basis, but the aged Sebrings leave something to be desired. The Coupe is dead after the 2005 model year, and the Convertible and Sedan are rental fleet specials. Hey, at least they’ve got long seven-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranties. Until 2006, when Chrysler reverts to three-year/36,000-mile coverage.

  • Dodge Caravan – St. Louis, Missouri Dodge Dakota – Warren, Michigan Dodge Durango – Newark, Delaware Dodge Grand Caravan – St. Louis, Missouri Dodge Neon – Belvidere, Illinois Dodge Sprinter – Gaffney, South Carolina Dodge Stratus Coupe – Normal, Illinois Dodge Stratus Sedan – Sterling Heights, Michigan Dodge Ram – St. Louis, Missouri and Warren, Michigan Dodge Viper – Detroit, Michigan

Dodge’s hottest new cars, the Charger and Magnum, as well as some Caravans and Grand Caravans are built in Canada, and a third of all Ram pickups are made in Mexico, but most other vehicles wearing a cross-haired grille are assembled in the U.S. of A. Dodge builds several solid products, like the Dakota pickup, the Durango SUV, the Neon SRT-4 sport sedan, the Ram pickup, and the Viper sports car. Even the aging Grand Caravan minivan has its charms. But we’d skip the Neon and Stratus until replacements for these models arrive in the next couple of years.

  • Ford E-Series – Lorain, Ohio Ford Escape – Kansas City, Missouri and Avon Lake, Ohio Ford Excursion – Kansas City, Missouri Ford Expedition – Wayne, Michigan Ford Explorer – Louisville, Kentucky and Fenton, Missouri Ford F-Series – Dearborn, Michigan; Wayne, Michigan; Kansas City, Missouri; Norfolk, Virginia Ford Five Hundred – Chicago, Illinois Ford Focus – Wayne, Michigan Ford Freestyle – Chicago, Illinois Ford GT – Wixom, Michigan Ford Mustang – Flat Rock, Michigan Ford Ranger – Minneapolis, Minnesota Ford Taurus – Atlanta, Georgia Ford Thunderbird – Wixom, Michigan

Ford offers a little something for everyone in the Buy American category, from an exotic sports car in the GT to a full-size family sedan called the Five Hundred. Crown Vics and Freestar minivans originate north of the border, while the new 2006 Fusion is made in Mexico along with a handful of F-Series Super Duty models. Otherwise, everything wearing the blue oval badge is made in America. Contrary to popular belief, Ford’s got a solid lineup these days; the only duds are the oversized Excursion, aged Ranger, and obsolete Taurus.

  • GMC Canyon – Shreveport, Louisiana GMC Envoy – Moraine, Ohio GMC Envoy XL – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma GMC Envoy XUV – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma GMC Savana – Wentzville, Missouri GMC Sierra – Flint, Michigan; Pontiac, Michigan; Ft. Wayne, Indiana GMC Yukon – Arlington, Texas and Janesville, Wisconsin GMC Yukon XL – Arlington, Texas and Janesville, Wisconsin

GMC builds a handful of Sierra pickups in Canada, and sources a third of its Yukon XL models from Mexico, but otherwise builds everything here in the United States, making it a shame that the product isn’t truly “professional grade.” All current GMC models are either aging rapidly or aren’t considered to be competitive in their classes -- though this Yukon Denali sure is stylish.

  • Hummer H1 – Mishawaka, Indiana Hummer H2 – Mishawaka, Indiana Hummer H3 – Shreveport, Louisiana

Hummers might be symbols of American military might and expendable income, but at least they can fly the stars-and-stripes with pride, because each model is built within U.S. borders. The new Hummer H3 is assembled in Louisiana, sharing a production line with the compact GM pickups with which it shares its guts. The civilian version of the military HUMVEE, the H1, and it’s more docile but equally imposing H2 sibling, are produced at the AM General plant in northern Indiana.

  • Jeep Commander – Detroit, Michigan Jeep Grand Cherokee – Detroit, Michigan Jeep Liberty – Toledo, Ohio Jeep Wrangler – Toledo, Ohio

Jeeps can go places most other SUVs can’t, and with the redesigned Grand Cherokee’s debut for 2005, a trail-rated Jeep is just as comfortable on the pavement as it is off. Our favorite, however, is the classic Wrangler, a no-excuses kind of vehicle that is affordable, immensely fun to drive, and totally impractical.

  • Lincoln Aviator – Fenton, Missouri Lincoln LS – Wixom, Michigan Lincoln Mark LT – Dearborn, Michigan Lincoln Navigator – Wayne, Michigan Lincoln Town Car – Wixom, Michigan

Lincoln has lost its luster, and when compared to the renaissance of design, engineering, and quality that is transforming Cadillac, it’s hard to think of a single reason for anyone to buy one of these rebadged Ford products. The only Lincoln worth mentioning is the LS, a true sport-luxury sedan not shared with Ford or Mercury and that could have taken on the best cars in the segment with a little more attention to detail. But that car is almost dead, to be replaced by a Mexican-built Ford Fusion with a chrome waterfall grille on the front and a Zephyr nametag on the back. Ugh.

  • Mercury Mariner – Avon Lake, Ohio Mercury Montego – Chicago, Illinois Mercury Mountaineer – Louisville, Kentucky and Fenton, Missouri Mercury Sable – Atlanta, Georgia

Mercury’s Monterey minivan and Grand Marquis sedan are Canadian, and the new 2006 Milan will come from Mexico, but the rest of the lineup is made in America. The decision to choose a Mercury over a Ford comes down to whether or not you like satin-nickel interior and exterior trim. Mercurys get it; Fords don’t.

  • Pontiac G6 – Orion Township, Michigan Pontiac Grand Am – Lansing, Michigan Pontiac Montana SV6 – Doraville, Georgia Pontiac Solstice – Wilmington, Delaware Pontiac Sunfire – Lordstown, Ohio Pontiac Vibe – Fremont, California

Formerly the excitement division of General Motors, but in recent years the spoilers-and-cladding brand, most of Pontiac’s lineup is sourced from within U.S. borders. The Grand Prix sedan and upcoming Torrent SUV are made in Canada, but otherwise Ponchos are all-American. We highly recommend the Vibe, which is constructed almost entirely of durable Toyota parts, and the new G6 is a comfortable if rather unrefined model that could hold promise with a little more massaging by designers and engineers. The new face of Pontiac, the Solstice roadster, goes into production in Delaware this summer.

  • Saturn Ion – Spring Hill, Tennessee Saturn L-Series – Wilmington, Delaware Saturn Relay – Doraville, Georgia Saturn Vue – Spring Hill, Tennessee

Saturn used to inspire fanatical owner loyalty, hold annual owner picnics at the factory in Tennessee, and rigidly adhere to one-price selling in its dealer showrooms. Today, after a decade of product starvation, Saturn is just another GM brand, stumbling along with a middling product lineup. Well, at least they’re all made in America, including the Vue SUV with its Honda-sourced V6 engine.


About Christian Wardlaw

Christian Wardlaw joined the Automotive Information Center (AIC) in January 2003, managing content development for AIC and the Autosite consumer website. Previously, Christian served as Editor-in-Chief and Director of Automotive Data for Edmunds.com. A writer, editor, and automobile aficionado, Christian is a different sort of car enthusiast. His passion lies in the vehicles that people most often buy, rather than with high-performance sports cars or ultra-luxury sedans. “Given the choice to spend an hour with a Dodge Viper or a Honda Accord, I’ll choose the Accord,” he claims. Unless, of course, the driving venue is a racetrack. Christian has been a car enthusiast all of his life, uttering “car” as his first word while growing up in Detroit. A graduate of Western Michigan University, he holds a bachelor’s degree in English. His daily driver is a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata

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