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Is 'Made In America' More Important Than 'Made By U.S. Company'?

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When you're looking for a new ride, which is more important: the company that makes the car or the country where it's made?

Once upon a time, that question would've seemed absurd. Honda is a Japanese company, so its cars are made in Japan, right?

But thanks to increasingly international corporations, that's not so true anymore. Automakers like Honda and Volkswagen build huge numbers of vehicles in the U.S., and Detroit's own Ford makes its popular Fiesta in Mexico. 

With auto bodies, drivetrains, and other components moving freely across borders, it's sometimes hard to say what counts as an "American" car anymore.

Asking Americans

But that's not to say that consumers don't notice. In fact, our friends at AutoTrader recently surveyed shoppers and found that while 41% believe that it's "important to purchase a vehicle built in the U.S. by U.S. workers", only 28% prioritize buying cars from U.S. automakers, regardless of where those cars were made.

When asked about such feelings, 78% of the "made in America" fans felt that American-made vehicles help protect American jobs. Another 74% said that buying American-made products supports the U.S. economy, and 62% said that doing so "keeps American dollars at home".

But perhaps most interesting of all is this little tidbit: "a vehicle that is made in the U.S. by a foreign automaker is more likely to be seen as 'American made' (57 percent) than one from a U.S. automaker that was built outside the U.S. (43 percent)".

Our take

Unfortunately, AutoTrader didn't supply information about its survey methodology, so we don't know the number of shoppers surveyed or how the study was conducted. That makes us wonder if these numbers would hold up across the general population.

Do these findings match your own experiences and priorities? Do you pay attention to where your vehicle was built? Do you care? Drop us a line, or leave a note in the comments below.

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Comments (23)
  1. The government kindly provides the percentage of American Content. Interestingly, "American" includes both the USA and Canada, but not Mexico. Guess we really like the Canadian :)

    The desire to "buy American" is in conflict with the realities of how cars are made. Perhaps the "% American Content" is as close as we can get.

  2. John - I'm sure that it is easier for UNCLE SAM to convince Americans that our English-speaking neighbors are genuinely part of North America while Mexico is part of the Spanish-speaking Central America. Also, our northern buddies were supplying Detroit long before the invasion from Europe and Asia.It is not prejudice in my opinion - just realism.

  3. My personnel thoughts: I would, and do, place US based companies above made is US by off-shore comapanies.

  4. I buy made in USA by American companies.

  5. Funny, I bought a Dodge Challenger while Chryler/Dodge was still majority American-owned. But if I were to buy another Challenger I'd be buying a foreign car owned by the Italians.

  6. Chrysler is not owned by Fiat, Fiat owns a small bit of Chrysler group but can not touch Chrysler's profits, they only have input on what to do to make their company's bigger.

  7. In todays Global Market I would say "Made In America" is gaining more clout.

  8. My last two "American" cars, a Ford Focus SVT and Chevrolet HHR SS were both built in Mexico.

  9. A consumer should be concerned about price and quality, not where the profits go. So for me that comes down to what company made it and where they made it.

  10. After Barack Hussein Obama gave billions of our taxes dollars to bail out GM and Chrysler (read: the UAW) I would never buy either brand. I would consider Ford, but it would have to be a very desirable car.
    I prefer to buy a US built car assembled by non-union US Subaru,Honda,Toyota,etc.

  11. It was a government loan which made the government MILLIONS of dollars in interest, which was repaid in advance. But if you just don't like them because they went bankrupt and got a loan then thats your choice.

  12. Oh, give it a rest. Obama won reelection. Now suck it.

  13. For me it's company first. That's why I buy Hondas. On top of that every domestic auto maker uses parts sourced from all over the world and all three domestic auto makers have even sold vehicles manufactured by foreign auto companies with their (the domestic marque) name on it. GM was and is the biggest participant in this game. Ford sold Mazda's made in Japan as Fords and Chrysler has been doing the same with Mitsubishi's for the past 30+ years even going so far as to use Mitsubishi engines in it's mini-vans. So that begs the question: How domestic are they really? Years ago my dad had a Ford Ranger with transmission parts made in France. Still, company is far more important to me than the country where it's made.

  14. All car company's use parts that are made globally. But please, specify which cars were made by these foreign car company that the big three have slapped their name on?? Just curios where you get your bs from

  15. The Chrysler conquest and Dodge Stealth were both made by Mitsubishi and resold with an American badge. Do a little reading before calling someone out on their "bs"

  16. Yeah...Back in the Ninetys....... And it was worse junk than anything that came out of Detroit. BTW a Mitsu engine was last used in a Mopar Minivan in 2000

  17. Ask all the people how they like their Accords, TL's, Odysseys with defective Transmissions, The civics with bad auto trannys, the Asian Owned Rag "Consumer Reports" gives Honda a complete pass on..

    I won't RENT, BUY or take a Ride in JAP CRAP. You are being sold a dream

  18. I buy and rent models designated made in USA (VIN first digit 1, 4 or 5), by American based auto manufacturers.

  19. I still don't understand why an Alabama built Hyundai Sonata or Volkswagen Passat is labeled as an import while an Mexican built Ford Fusion or Dodge Journey is labeled as domestic.

  20. Easy...Foreign parent company

  21. If that is all there is to the auto trader research I'll call it irresponsible. It seems to be facts about uneducated opinions, which in mind is not fact then. I'd really like to see some true research done regarding the benefits of having the corporate headquarters and higher paid engineering and design facilities in the USA vs Toyota USA creating lower paying manufacturing jobs. I can't back this up but I've heard Honda USA and Toyota USA do not make any money here because their parent companies charge so much for parts, and thus don't pay taxes here. Has anyone seen a real economical impact study of American owned vs American made, not a study of how people feel?


  23. Well you have to look at the whole picture and determine what automakers contribute the most to our economy. Like the use of domestic materials and the location of all the research, development, design, engineering, etc. Another thing people don't realize is the fact that less than half of the foreign cars purchased in the U.S. are made in the U.S. While 7 out of 10 of the vehicles by GM, Ford and Chrysler sold in the U.S. are made in the U.S. Of course things are changing all the time but that's what is was the last time I looked.

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