Around this time every year, the Kogod School of Business at American University in Washington, D.C. publishes its "Made in America Auto Index." It's a study of vehicles made for the U.S. market that aims to show which are the "most American."
What, exactly, makes an "American" car? Decades ago, the answer might've seemed obvious, but in today's world of multi-national corporations, decentralized production hubs, and complex, global networks of suppliers, the response isn't so straightforward.
Kogod analyzes each model based on seven criteria. To minimize confusion, we'll quote directly from the source:
1. Profit Margin - This was measured based on the location of an automaker’s headquarters. If an automaker’s global headquarters is located in the US, the model receives a 6. If it is not, it receives a 0. The assumption here is that (on average), 6% of a vehicle’s value is profit margin, so if it is a U.S. automaker, the profits remain in the country.
2. Labor - This category considers where the car is assembled. If a model is assembled in the US, it receives a 6. If not, the model receives a 0. We assume that approximately 6% of the vehicle’s value is labor content.
3. Research and Development (R&D) - This category looks at the location of a car’s R&D activities. If the model is a product of a US company, it receives a 6. If it is the product of a foreign company but is assembled in the U.S. it receives a 3; if it is a foreign import it receives a 1.
4. Inventory, Capital and other expenses - If assembly occurs in the US, the model receives an 11; if not, it receives a 0.
5. Engine - If the engine is produced in the US, the model receives a 14; if not it receives a 0.
6. Transmission - If the transmission is produced in the US, the model receives a 7; if not it receives a 0.
7. Body, Chassis, and Electrical Components - 50 % of a vehicle’s score is assigned to this category. The [American Automobile Labeling Act] percentage is divided into two to derive this score.
As you can see, the study is naturally weighted toward U.S.-based companies. Even Detroit models manufactured outside the U.S. have an advantage in categories #1 and #3.
Last year's first-place finishers--the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia--have retained their spots at the top of the Index, with each boasting 85.5 percent domestic content. The Ford F-150 came in a close second, at an even 85 percent, and the automatic version of the Chevrolet Corvette placed third.
Visit the 2017 Index and use the search bar just above the results to see how "American" your ride is.