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

November 23, 2010
Car shopping

Car shopping

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.


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