Stars, Stripes, and Steel: The 15 ‘Most American’ Autos of 2014
At the Kogod School of Business at Washington, D.C.’s American University, researchers have concocted perhaps the most complete system to determine just how “American” a car really is. On top of the reporting used for the American Automotive Labeling Act (AALA), the Kogod team weights each vehicle score based on where it is assembled, to what country profits go, and even where the research behind each vehicle was conducted.
The result is the Kogod Made in America Auto Index released annually by these American University researchers. In all, there are seven criteria that factor into the score: site of body, chassis, and electrical parts manufacturing (50 percent); site of engine production (14 percent); site of inventory and capital expense allocation (11 percent); site of transmission production (7 percent); site of assembly labor (6 percent); site of research and development (6 percent); and finally, where the profits in each aspect of the transaction go (6 percent).
Add it all up and you have a perfect score of 100. No automaker can claim a single vehicle that is 100 percent American according to the Kogod Index, but some came close to 90. In fact, the top twenty-one automobiles on the index come from the Detroit Two that are U.S. shareholder-owned corporations. Here are fifteen automobiles that topped the 2014 Kogod most American list.
1. Ford F-150 (tie)
With over 763,000 trucks sold in the United States in 2013, Ford’s F-Series pickups won the sales race by a landslide. Chevy Silverado, the second place finisher, trailed the F-150 by 283,000 trucks. In third place, the Toyota Camry trailed Ford’s F-Series by over 350,000 vehicles.
American auto consumers happened to be buying the most American vehicle on sale today. In a tie atop the Kogod index, the Ford F-Series scored 87.5, with every point docked coming 25 percent foreign-made components in the body, chassis, and electrical fixtures. It scored 37.5 out of possible 50. Otherwise, the F-150 is entirely American.
1. Chevy Corvette (tie)
America’s supercar is also tied for the most American vehicle on the 2014 Kogod index. Chevy’s Corvette shares the perfect score with the F-150 on every count, including the 12.5 points docked (out of 50) for body, chassis, and electrical components made outside the United States. Otherwise, this incendiary ride is pure American.
The new Corvette Stingray was the winner of 2014 North American Car of the Year at the Detroit auto show in January and remains one of the feathers in GM’s cap in an otherwise troubled time for the top U.S. automaker.
2. Buick Enclave, Chevy Traverse, GMC Acadia, GMC Acadia Denali (tie)
Of the twenty-one vehicles that sat atop the 2014 Kogod Made in America Auto Index, General Motors produced eighteen while Ford was behind the remaining three. In second place, four GM SUVs tied with a score of 86. The Buick Enclave and Chevy Traverse joined the GMC Acadia and its luxury Denali model for the four-way tie.
The 14 points these vehicles were docked came from the foreign-sourced body, chassis, and electrical components. Out of a possible 50, the Traverse, Enclave, and Acadia models scored 36, which was added to a perfect 50 to obtain their final score.
3. Cadillac CTS, Chevy Equinox, GMC Terrain (tie)
The 2014 Cadillac CTS, another GM prize winner, joined the Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain for a General Motors sweep of third place on the 2014 Kogod Made in America Auto Index. Out of a possible 100, these three vehicles notched 85 points. All three were docked 15 points out of a possible 50 for foreign-sourced components in either the body, chassis, or electrical features of the automobile’s makeup.
Though GM’s recall woes are extensive these days, the automaker is hoping the new crop of automobiles from its various brands hold up better than the roster of defective vehicles that are generating so much bad press.
4. Chevy Express, GMC Savana, Chevy Malibu, Buick LaCrosse, Chevy Impala (tie)
GM added another feather in its cap when the 2014 Chevy Impala scored 95 out of 100 on the Consumer Reports sedan rankings. The new Impala nudged aside several Japanese competitors that had dominated the segment for so long. With the release of the 2014 Kogod index, the Impala tied with four other GM models for fourth place on the list to show its American-made stripes.
These five automobiles scored 83 out of 100. The LaCrosse, Impala, and Malibu were docked the 17 points for foreign parts in the body, chassis, and electric works while the Savana and Express took a 10-point hit in this department. Foreign-made transmissions were behind the other 7-point drop in the scores of the Savana and Express.
5. Ford Mustang, Ford Taurus, Cadillac ATS, Cadillac Escalade, Chevy Suburban, Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon (tie)
Fifth place on the Kogod index was one crowded parking lot. Seven vehicles from GM and Ford packed the list with a score of 82.5 overall. In every case, the 17.5 point deductions came as a result of foreign parts comprising about 30 percent of electrical systems, elements of the vehicle body, or chassis components.
Some high-profile automobiles landed on this spot to round out the top five. Most notable is the Ford Mustang, which is both Ford’s most recognizable car behind the F-150 and a symbol of the U.S. auto industry as a whole. Die-hard Mustang enthusiasts will be happy to know the muscle icon is as American as can be in the modern auto industry.
6. Dodge Avenger
America’s most affordable V6 is also sole holder of sixth place on the most American list from the Kogod School of Business. In 2013, the Dodge Avenger landed at No. 51 on the list of top selling vehicles in the United States, trailing the Charger by a few thousand units and edging the GMC Acadia and Nissan Pathfinder.
When the Avenger’s overall score of 82 was recorded in late 2013, some 41 percent of Dodge (Chrysler) was owned by the United Auto Worker pension fund, the Kogod study notes. Since Fiat has taken full control of the company, future scores of Chrysler Group are likely to be lower. For now, the sixth place is all Avenger, which was docked 12 points for foreign components and another size for R&D abroad as well as profits headed back to Fiat corporate headquarters in Italy.
7. Chrysler 200 Convertible
Though the Chrysler 200 Convertible received deductions for foreign research and development as well as foreign profit allocation, it still nabbed seventh place on the Kogod most American list. The only other knock on the 200 with respect to American production was its score of 37 out of 50 for body, chassis, and electric parts. In that respect, only five automobiles were more American.
8. Chrysler 200 Sedan and Jeep Wrangler 4 Door (tie)
You can’t drop the top on this version of the Chrysler 200, but you can recognize it as the eighth most American car of 2013 according to the Kogod rankings. It tied with the Jeep Wrangler 4 Door model with a score of 80.5 out of 100. As with the Dodge Avenger, the two Chrysler 200 models and the Wrangler will likely fall in the next rankings now that Fiat owns the Chrysler Group outright.
9. Jeep Wrangler 2 Door and Ford Explorer (tie)
Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant cranks out the Taurus, the Lincoln MKS, and the Ford Explorer that tied with the Jeep Wrangler 2 Door for ninth place on the Kogod Made in America Auto index. These two vehicles scored 80 out of a possible 100.
In the case of the Jeep Wrangler, 6 points were deducted for R&D abroad as well as foreign profit allocation while the other 14 points were knocked off for body, chassis, and electrical components sourced outside the U.S. The Ford Explorer got its 20-point deduction from the category of foreign body and other components.
10. Jeep Cherokee
Kogod ranked the Jeep Cherokee at No. 10 on the American made index with a score of 79 out of 100. For foreign-sourced elements in the Cherokee’s eletrical system, chassis, and body, 15 points came off the score. Of the other six points in deductions, half came from foreign R&D and half came from profits that were sent back to parent Fiat in old Italia.
As the research team at Kogod noted with an asterisk on every Chrysler Group vehicle, these Fiat products will likely score lower in the next rankings. The UAW pension fund was still in control when the 2o14 list was formulated.
11. Honda Odyssey, Toyota Camry, Honda Ridgeline, Honda Crosstour, Toyota Tundra (tie)
The plot thickens. How did five Japanese-branded cars tie for eleventh place on the Kogod Made in America Auto Index? It’s easy to see in the breakdown of their score of 78.5 points. Though the full six points were deducted for foreign profits (another three for foreign R&D), the assembly and production of everything except 25 percent of body components took place in the United States by Americans.
Since the Toyota Camry is the best selling car for the past thirteen years, U.S. consumers who bought one of the millions of Camrys in this run can say that, for the most part, they were buying American.
12. Jeep Patriot and Dodge Durango (tie)
Two more Chrysler Group models muscled into the top 15 of the Kogod index. The Jeep Patriot and Dodge Durango deadlocked with a score of 79 points. In both cases, 16 points were docked for foreign body and chassis components while the other six came from foreign R&D and profit allocation.
Starting next year, the Fiat takeover of the Chrysler Group and all its brands will force the former Big Three automaker to wear a less American badge (at least in these ratings).
13. Tesla Model S, Lincoln MKS, Jeep Compass (tie)
Judging by the ban New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and other state politicians have put on Tesla sales, one would think this car was a foreign scourge sent by secret agents to destroy the U.S. automobile industry. Hold the phone. In fact, the Tesla Model S is as American as a Lincoln MKS or Jeep Compass — all three of which scored 77.5 points in the Kogod index — and more American than countless Ford, Chrysler, and GM vehicles.
Everything in the Model S (and the two vehicles it tied for thirteenth place) is American sourced and engineered except the 22.5 points (less than half) of its electrical, body, and chassis components. Tesla may improve upon that figure when it opens its battery Gigafactory. One question for Gov. Christie and the others out to keep Tesla barred from direct sales: Whose side are you on? If it’s a foreign automaker’s shareholders, U.S. auto consumers have a right to know.
14. Acura RDX 2WD, Honda Pilot, Honda Accord, Honda CR-V (tie)
Honda Motor Company made a clean sweep of fourteenth place on the 2014 Kogod Made in American Auto Index. The four vehicles included the Acura RDX 2WD, the lone premium Japanese brand to make the list, and the wildly popular Honda CR-V and Accord. This lineup scored 76 points out of 100. Among the deductions were 15 out of 50 for foreign body and chassis components, three for R&D abroad, and six for foreign profit takes.
The Honda Accord is a perennial best seller in the United States. In 2013, it outsold every automobile on the U.S. market except the Camry, F-150, and Silverado. Those 366,678 U.S. consumers that drove home an Accord last year got themselves a reliable midsize sedan that has a chance at overtaking the Camry for the top spot in 2014. Who would have guessed it was race between two mostly American cars bearing Japanese emblems?