Which is the most American-made car? It depends on who you ask

Jeep Wrangler assembly
Lots of vehicles are made in America, but which one is the most American? It’s not an easy question to answer. Even cars that are assembled in the United States may use large amounts of imported parts. Brand names are no help either: U.S. automakers build cars abroad, and many foreign automakers have factories here. It’s perhaps not surprisingly, then, that not everyone can agree on what is the most American-made car.

Two major annual studies rank cars by American-made content: Cars.com’s American-Made Index, and the Made in America Auto Index from American University’s Kogod School of Business. For 2017, Cars.com picked the Jeep Wrangler as the most American-made car, while Kogod picked the Chevrolet Traverse.

Cars.com bases its rankings on five factors: assembly location, domestic parts content, U.S. factory employment adjusted for sales, and engine and transmission assembly locations. The rules were changed for 2017 to emphasize domestic parts content instead of overall sales. Cars.com said the old rules excluded too many cars that are assembled in the U.S.

The new rules resulted in a one-two finish for Jeep, with the Wrangler in first place and the Cherokee in second place. Bronze went to the Ford Taurus, while the Honda Ridgeline and Acura RDX finished in fourth and fifth, respectively. America’s best-selling vehicle, the Ford F-150, was ranked sixth, with the Ford Expedition, GMC Acadia, Honda Odyssey, and Honda Pilot rounding out the top 10.

Like Cars.com, the Kogod index analyzes assembly location and domestic parts content, including whether the engine and transmission are assembled in the U.S. But it also looks at where R&D work for a given model takes place, and whether the automaker is based in the U.S. If an automaker is based in the U.S., any profits from vehicle sales will remain here, Kogod reasons, boosting economic impact.

Kogod’s top pick was the Chevrolet Traverse, which didn’t even crack the top 10 in Cars.com’s rankings. It was followed by the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia. The Traverse, Enclave, and Acadia are essentially the same vehicle, but with styling and trim differences specific to their respective brands.

Kogod ranked the Ford F-150 fourth, with the Chevrolet Corvette fifth. The Corvette’s ranking only applies to models with automatic transmissions, though. The Jeep Wrangler finished sixth in the Kogod rankings, followed by the Ford Expedition, the Expedition’s Lincoln Navigator twin, the Ford Taurus, and the all-wheel drive sedan version of the Cadillac ATS.

While many models made both lists, picking the most American-made car really depends on the methodology as much as the cars themselves. Now that auto-industry jobs are a major political issue, don’t expect these studies to be the last word on American-made cars.

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