Years of auto shareholders change — with parts manufacturing and vehicle assembly scattered around the world — leave it nearly impossible to think of cars simply as “American made” or “foreign made.”
Still, some cars are more “American made” than others, and at the top of the list is the Jeep Cherokee, assembled in Belvidere, Ill.
The Cherokee leads the Cars.com 2018 American-Made Index. It edges out Honda’s Odyssey minivan and Ridgeline pickup truck, both built in Alabama with high domestic-parts content and US-sourced drivetrains. Ford’s Chicago-made Taurus ranks fourth. Four of the top 10 most-American vehicles are actually produced by a foreign-based automaker.
Manufacturing diversity within the auto sector, and its typically high-paying jobs, are among the touchier issues as free-traders challenge a series of tariffs lobbed between the US and China and the US and the European Union, and as the Nafta trade pact renegotiations between the US, Canada and Mexico intensify.
As for the American-Made Index’s makeup, US assembly is a critical component of eligibility, although it’s not the whole story. Cars.com considers five factors to determine the domestic economic impact of a given model: assembly location, domestic-parts content as determined by the American Automobile Labeling Act, engine sourcing, transmission sourcing and factory jobs provided by each automaker’s US plants. Notably, the labeling act doesn’t distinguish between Canadian and US parts, so Cars.com does its own additional research, analyzing engine and transmission sourcing to ensure that two of the most cost-intensive components in any car are from the US as it compiles the list.
Last year’s No. 1 American-made car, the Jeep Wrangler, was redesigned for the 2018 model year with enough decreased domestic content to knock it out of the index’s top 10 entirely this year. The Cherokee, however, maintained its high domestic-parts content — 72 percent for the 2018 model year — with engines and transmissions from the US.
The highest-ranked newcomer to the list this year was the Chevrolet Volt at No. 5. Plug-in cars, whether fully electric or a plug-in hybrid like the Volt, often lack high domestic content amid global sourcing for batteries — one of the most cost-intensive aspects of any car with a significant electric driving range, Cars.com said. But the Volt’s battery is assembled near Detroit, with cells from a plant in western Michigan. Its total domestic content comes in at 66 percent for 2018.