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41% Say 'Buying American' Is Most Important When Shopping For A Car (But What's 'American'?)

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Each of us has a slightly different set of criteria when we go shopping for a new ride. Some are obsessed with horsepower, some want airbags, and some marketing folks believe that cupholders are still the key to many buyers' hearts. But for 41% of Americans, the most important criteria is simply, "Was it made in the U.S.?"

That statistic comes to us via Rasmussen Reports, which conducted phone interviews with 1,000 adults between November 10 and 11 of this year. Rasmussen asked the same three questions to all survey participants: 

1. When you look for a car, do you look for an American built car, a foreign built car, or the best possible deal regardless of where it was manufactured?

2. Is buying a foreign brand of car that’s built in the U.S. the same as buying an "American" product?

3. Do you consider just the Detroit Big Three -- Ford, General Motors and Chrysler -- to be American car companies?

The answers to question number one were pretty straightforward. Given the three options, 44% said the best deal was most important, 41% insisted on buying American, and just 12% said that foreign-built cars were at the top of their lists. Compare those stats to ones from June 2008 -- when 51% prefered the best deal and just 32% were interested in buying American -- and it would seem that Detroit is making headway.

But not so fast. Things get more complicated when questions two and three are thrown in the mix. For instance, 41% of survey participants said buying a foreign car that's manufactured in the U.S. is the same as buying a ride from Chrysler, Ford, or GM. And 29% think there are other American car companies besides the Big Three. Maybe that means Tesla is gaining brand awareness, or perhaps those folks have read John Voelcker's breakdown of what makes an "American" car

Of course, many of these disagreements about automakers and "American-ness" are grounded in the federal government's bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, which have been fairly unpopular with the public. However, another recent Rasmussen report revealed that just 46% of Americans still cling to their anti-GM, anti-Chrysler grudge, so maybe we can all get past this soon and focus on the important stuff like airport patdowns and royal weddings and the (rumored) NSYNC reunion.

[Rasmussen

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Comments (13)
  1. Toyota has spent millions to change perception, while closing NUMMI. Just do the math. Look at number of OEM plants in the US (or North America). GM, Ford and Chrysler win. Look at fairness, as well. While Toyota was the winner in the US cash for clunkers program they allow only token access to their market in Japan. There are no foreign car plants in Japan, yet total foreign imports account for less than 5% of total sales in Japan. You won't find Korean, Chinese or Indian plants coming to Japan, nor will you find many actual sales of the less expensive cars. This competition is not allowed in Japan. It not only is allowed in the US, it is encouraged and supported through tax incentives. We need to protect our own markets, the way our competitors do.
     
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  2. For me, it's simple. An American car is a vehicle manufactured by an American company.
     
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  3. @Michael: Hmmm. Not sure it's that simple. What do you do about a company like Mazda, which is partially owned by Ford? Or Chrysler for that matter, which is partially owned by Fiat?
     
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  4. People have to understand beyond where the car was put together. Where was all the engineering and testing done, where are the profits going back to for re-investment. Same goes for its supply base.
    When Toyota was facing all the allegations of unintended acceleration, Toyota USA could do nothing to answer the questions. All the data was housed and controlled by their Japanese engineers.
    Also look at what they do for the community and their minority dollars. Toyota doesn't even come close to what Ford spends with minority suppliers.
    Korea has also a very close market for imports. New growth is in China, where the Americans are not allowed to own 100% of their businesses. They have to find a local majority JV partner.
    Seems like the rest of the world has figured out how important it is to maintain good paying manufacturing jobs. Critical to keep a healthy middle class.
    There is a total lack of leadership in this country that is necessary to compete evenly in the world. Times have changed, if we are not smart, this country will suffer.
    Bottom line, buy where the vehicles are engineered, manufactured, and where the profits flow back for future re-investment.
     
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  5. AP makes great sense, as does barry. My response to the question is this; "Where does the profit go?". Ford's partial interest in Mazda and Chrysler's relationship with Fiat are perhaps a "grey area" (Ford less grey than Chrysler) BUT what is important to me is that we as taxpayers still own GM. The company has and is making substantial strides to improve its product and will get my business when I am ready ...to put my money and support where my mouth is; in an American company.
     
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  6. @Jerry: Agreed. Although I think the taxpayers of Canada also own a part of GM.
     
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  7. Countries will say and do anything to get most favored nation trading status and as soon as it has been conferred, backslide. Japan, China, the US--every country's politicians manipulate the WTO. Time for a little quid pro quo. China does it and the WTO does nothing, but the US is too weenie to have an industrial policy managed by anyone other than Adam Smith's invisible hand (Republicans) or people who think they are the smartest person in the room (Democrats).
     
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  8. In past years, the UAW said the most American vehicle was(is) the Ford F-150 truck. At the time, I recall it was something like 97% parts made in the USA. It's probably less today but I'll wager it's still the highest. What may be more important is where do the bulk of the dollars go in which case Ford and GM win this debate. Chrysler is probably second. But, even though Toyota makes lots of cars in the US, the profits ultimately wind up in Japan. That said, you cannot forget for a moment all the jobs these foreign company provide for our fellow Americans. That simply cannot be ignored.
     
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  9. We've had more than our fair share of American vehicles, and for my wife and I it is simply now a matter of purchasing a vehicle with better quality control, residual value, and one that doesn't breakdown after the last payment. For us this no longer means an American vehicle.
     
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  10. Lets see!. I can buy an American car built in Mexico ( Ford, Chrysler and GM) or I can buy Foreign car built in America ( Nissan, Toyota, BMW, Hyundai, Mitsubishi).
     
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  11. You can't go wrong with GM, Ford or Chrysler.
    There are some gray areas, but you will be supporting far more American knowledge workers- i.e. engineers and managers- with these companies' products.
    Most importantly, you will help maintain the domestic capability to run the most complex and difficult manufacturing enterprises that exist.
     
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  12. I never understand just why it is so important "where the profit goes," to some. It's like spending a dollar but concerned where 3 or 4 cents goes. Continuing this thought, please be more concerned that 93 or 94 cents of that dollar is keeping the local economy alive; not so if you buy a car with 30% local content, with 70% foreign. The Ford Fusion, and other platforms on this chassis, are assembled in Hermosillo,MX, as an example of "buying American." Most of the $$ fuel the Mexican economy, not OURS. As for the engineering, it came from Mazda! So there!
     
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  13. Buy American or foieign? We have to accept that what passes off as "American" is confusing and the same applies to the foreign brands. I own an Australian-made Ford in Sydney, a car that bears virtually no commonality with any US Ford. This is a sophisticated,rear-drive Taurus-size sedan So does this mean that my car is Australian or American? Nevertheless, good to see Americans slowly switching back to 'domestic' brands although many have little idea where their vehicle is made.
     
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