This article is a great synopsis of two key things we are studying in this class: The first, “What is an American car?” and the second relates to the book we are currently reading Once Upon a Car. I think this article is a perfect “After” chapter in the book because it reflects on how far the American auto industry has come since the time of the book but, I’m getting ahead of myself.
The article poses the grandiose question, “What is an American Car?” and extrapolates on that question by asking, “In the automotive realm, the practice of buying American is one that’s open to interpretation. Does buying American mean buying a Chrysler? Because the company has merged with Italian-owned Fiat. … A Tundra built in San Antonio, with much of its research and development conducted in Japan?” This question has been haunting our class for weeks now, and a professor of international business at American University finally gives us the answer we so desperately crave. Frank DuBois came up with a new “Made in America Auto Index” and some of the results were surprising. He used seven categories to determine the cars “Americanism” including plant location, where research and development took place, giving weight to engine and transmission assembly and most importantly in my opinion, overall impact on the American economy.
Understandably, and to the cheers of some of my classmates the Ford F-150 and the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray were number one with 87.5 out of a possible 100 points on the index. This raises the question why are the most American cars not 100% American? DuBois says this perfectly illustrates how globalization has affected such a vast industry. To cut costs, companies assemble similar components at one plant and ship them out. Furthermore, the interplay among companies now days is an incredibly confusing flow chart. Nissan and French Renault, Daimler having its pocket in just about everything, Fiat and Chrysler, the list goes on ad infinitum.
Other notable companies at the top include Tesla, which I love, and DuBois acknowledges that once the battery plant is firmly planted on American soil, they’ll be on the rise as well. Shockingly to some, the Toyota Camry and the Honda Odyssey scored very well. However, Lovers of the “American” car simmer down, the Big three dominated atop the list.
The takeaway is a positive note for America, something atypical in the past decade. Just seven years after two of the Big Three declared bankruptcy, it appears that the American auto industry is finally on the rise. It appears that harmony has been reached between the UAW and the Big Three and it’s finally affordable to produce a car in our backyard. Dubois finishes up on confident note, “I think the great story about the American auto industry is we didn’t give it up for dead when we could have, and it’s come back stronger than ever.”