Two-hundred and forty years ago, the Continental Congress officially adopted Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, setting the wheels in motion for the formation of the United States of America. To commemorate the day, the United States proclaimed July Fourth a national holiday, setting aside Independence Day for rest, relaxation, BBQ, and of course, extravagant fireworks displays.
Since the humble beginnings of 1776, the United States of America has grown to become the foremost global power with the world’s largest economy. As an industrial giant, the U.S. dominated the automotive industry until 1980. The United States would retake the top spot in 1994, but lose it again in 2006. Currently China is the world’s leader in automobile production, followed by the U.S. and Japan.
Over the past few decades U.S. manufacturers have built factories in other countries and foreign automakers have set up shop on U.S. soil, building cars right here in the United States. This phenomenon means that having a U.S. automaker’s emblems on your vehicle doesn’t necessarily mean that it was “Made in USA.” On the flip side, that Japanese or Korean vehicle you’re driving may have been assembled in Kentucky or Alabama.
So what exactly does it mean for a vehicle to be made in America on July 4, 2016? The Kogod School of Business at American University in Washington, D.C., has assembled an index of vehicles that ranks them based on domestic content. Using an elaborate but easily understood set of criteria, the business school ranked every vehicle sold in the United States on a 100-point scale. Using seven different benchmarks, Kogod assigned a percentage for profit margin, labor, engine, transmission and research and development. A sixth factor analyzes inventory, capital and other expenses, while the seventh metric measures the body, interior, chassis, electrical and other criteria related to assembly, parts and materials. For 2016, vehicles were ranked from one to 75 to determine the most American-made cars.
Fifth Place: Honda Accord
First through fifth place is actually comprised of multiple vehicles. For instance, first place is a three-way tie. Interestingly, one car sits alone in fifth place. With 81 percent domestic content, the Honda Accord is the only car in the top five from a foreign automaker and our lone fifth-place winner.
The Accord also continues to be a top pick among midsize sedans. Two responsive engine choices are offered and it’s still available with a six-speed manual transmission, which is an increasingly rare feature in the class. Desirable tech features also debuted on the 2016 model, including smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Fourth Place: General Motors Dominates
Coming in with 82.5 percent domestic content are a number of vehicles from General Motors. These include the Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac Escalade and multiple models from Chevrolet, including the Equinox, Impala, Malibu, Tahoe and Suburban. The GMC Yukon and Yukon XL round out the fourth-place winners.
All of these vehicles can claim that every major component is made in the USA. Like every other vehicle on the list, they fall a little short in the category for body, interior, chassis, electrical and other, earning 32.5 of the 50 possible percentage points.
While I haven’t spent any time in Buick’s full-size sedan, I’ve been impressed by both the Impala and the Malibu. Chevrolet has wowed reviewers and consumers alike with the new full-size and midsize four-door vehicles. Roomy interiors, powerful and efficient drivetrains and contemporary styling make both excellent choices for buyers who want a great daily driver, or a car that’s perfect for cross-country road trip adventures.
GM’s full-size SUVs also impress with expansive passenger and cargo space, plenty of utility and capable four-wheel drive systems. Meanwhile, the recently refreshed Equinox is a compact crossover and Chevy’s third best-selling vehicle. Available with front- or all-wheel drive, the Equinox can be powered by either a fuel-sipping 2.4-liter four-cylinder or 301-horsepower V6 engine.
Third Place: Chevrolet Corvette
It should come as no surprise that “America’s Sports Car” earns a top spot on the leaderboard, with 83 percent domestic content. Since the Corvette’s introduction at the GM Motorama in 1953, this model has become synonymous with American performance, quality and style.
Today’s 2016 Chevrolet Corvette is a modern masterpiece. Even the base model boasts a 455-horsepower, 6.2-liter V8 engine, as well as a performance-tuned suspension, stainless steel exhaust and speed-sensitive power steering.
Second Place: Ford F-150
It doesn’t get much more American than a full-size pickup truck, and with 85 percent domestic content, the Ford F-150 takes second place in the 2016 Kogod index. The F-150 offers all the utility you’d expect, as well as impressive capability off-road when it’s properly equipped.
A significant weight loss occurred with the F-150’s 2015 redesign, where aluminum body panels helped the F-150 improve its fuel economy and towing capacity. The F-Series pickup also has bragging rights as the best-selling vehicle in the United States, making the able-bodied truck one of the most American vehicles, period.
First Place: Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia
So what is the most American-made vehicle? Turns out there are three of them.
Tied with a top score and 90 percent domestic content, three crossover SUVs share top honors in the 2016 Kogod Made in America Auto Index.
The Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia share the same GM Lambda platform and more than a few mechanicals. All three are powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. The family-friendly trio offers three-row seating, plenty of cargo space and a tow rating of up to 5,200 pounds.
Honorable Mentions: American-Made Imports
With 78.5 percent domestic content, the eighth spot on the list is comprised of five models, four of which are not built by a domestic automaker. It’s a tie between the Honda Odyssey, Honda Pilot, Jeep Cherokee, Toyota Camry and Toyota Sienna. The idea that four Japanese vehicles can score 78.5 percent on the Kogod index illustrates how foreign-based manufacturers are utilizing the resources and workers of the U.S. to build fine automobiles. At the same time, these automakers are supplying many well-paying U.S. jobs in the process.