10 ‘American’ Cars That Are Really Made Overseas
Globalization has made auto production confusing for consumers. Once upon a time, a car that was “made in America” meant U.S. workers made it in one of a handful of states using parts from domestic suppliers. NAFTA, automation, and corporate cost-cutting changed that. Nowadays, many cars assembled in the U.S. by American workers are built with a majority of foreign-made parts.
The Chevrolet Bolt EV, assembled in Detroit at GM’s Orion plant, offers a perfect example. Since the car has a Korean-built drivetrain and battery, Bolt scored only 42.5 out of 100 on the Kogod School’s Made in America Auto Index for 2017. A Canadian-built Honda CR-V or Mercedes GLE from Alabama rank higher in U.S. content. So do 125 other cars on the market, and many of them sport foreign emblems.
In fact, since some American-branded vehicles are made overseas with barely any U.S. content, you might consider them foreign cars. Here are 10 models from Detroit car companies that have no claim on being made in America.
1. Lincoln MKZ
The Lincoln MKZ was one of the few vehicles that kept Ford’s luxury brand afloat during its leanest years. As of 2017, the model took on the new look that Continental brought for its revival and has a decent shot at success. However, with about 31.5% U.S. content, this car is by no means American. Workers at Ford’s Hermosillo (Mexico) plant assemble MKZ with mostly foreign parts.
2. Chevrolet Trax
Less than 15% of the Chevrolet Trax crossover hails from America. While Mexican-built models score a bit higher than the Korean editions sold in America, they both contain a majority of foreign parts. Overall, Trax did not rank in the top 175 cars for domestic content. Everything from the Hyundai Santa Fe to the Subaru Outback and Toyota Highlander boast more American content.
3. Jeep Renegade
American car companies kept production of their most iconic models — Ford Mustang, Jeep Wrangler, Chevy Corvette — at U.S. plants for 2017. However, most other vehicles were fair game, especially those with global appeal like the subcompact Jeep Renegade. Made at FCA plants In Italy, Brazil, and China, Renegade sports just 38% U.S. content.
4. Chrysler Pacifica
With the Chrysler 200 discontinued and sales of the 300 lagging, the Pacifica minivan is the primary thing keeping the 92-year-old brand alive in 2017. This model, which is made at an FCA plant in Canada, contains about 44% U.S. content. It’s actually nothing new: Chrysler workers at the Ontario plant have been making minivans since the 1980s.
5. Buick Encore
Buick Encore may be the brand’s best-selling model, but it’s far from an American-made product. Just 20.5% of this vehicle traces back to the U.S. for the 2017 model year. General Motors plants in Mexico, Spain, and China produce Encore for global markets. By contrast, Buick Enclave was the most American-made vehicle (part of a three-way tie) on sale, according to available data.
6. Ford Fusion
With Fusion and Fiesta coming from Mexico and Focus heading off to China, most of Ford’s passenger cars will be assembled outside of the U.S. within a few years. Fusion, which is the top-selling nameplate on this list, contains about 48.5% U.S. content, according to the Kogod School of Business. Compared to rival midsize sedans from foreign brands, Fusion trailed Toyota Camry (78.5%), Honda Accord (76%), and Kia Optima (68%).
7. Dodge Journey
Dodge Journey, one of FCA’s most popular vehicles in 2017, hails from the automaker’s plant in Toluca, Mexico. Research showed 40.5% of the SUV content could be called “American.” That figure places this Dodge behind Nissan Murano, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, and Acura MDX on the 2017 scorecard.
8. Ford Fiesta
While some cars assembled outside the U.S. sometimes hold a significant amount of U.S. content, Ford Fiesta can make no such claim. The Mexican-built car posted a score of 15.5 out of 100 on the Made in America index, making it one of the worst performers among models from U.S. automakers. Everything from the Fiat 500 (29.5) to the Hyundai Elantra (23) and Honda Civic 2.0-liter models (50) boasts more American parts.
9. Buick Envision
Of all the cars you will find with a Detroit badge, none is less American than Buick Envision. This crossover is a true product of China, making it one of the few vehicles actually imported from Asia to the U.S. by a Michigan-based corporation. Just 13% of Envision can be called American, putting it behind models like Toyota RAV4 (39.5%), BMW X5 (37.5%), and Lexus RX450 (18.5%).
10. GMC Terrain
While buyers might be wary about the origins of a small crossover from global brands, few would expect GMC vehicles to have less than 50% U.S. content. That’s the case with GMC Terrain, which scored 43 out of 100 on the Made in America index. You just wouldn’t expect a Nissan Rogue or Acura ILX to be more American than Terrain, but that’s where the U.S. auto industry is in 2017. As they say on prescription medications, make sure you read the label carefully.