Who's the Most 'American' Automaker?
The automotive industry is a many-headed beast. A car begins as base materials, which are then made into components, which are then assembled in a factory, and then taken to a dealership where they are sold to the consumer. Each of these steps means at least one job.
There are people working directly for the automakers themselves, plus those working for suppliers, plus those working in the towns and cities around the plants whose economies depend on the manufacturing jobs, etc. Estimates from The Level Field Institute, an analysis firm, say that for every employee working directly at an auto manufacturing plant, nine other Americans are employed in support jobs. Obviously, the number of American jobs dependent on automaking are not easily counted.
Beyond that, there is also the question of which automaker makes the most of their American-sold cars here in the U.S., which one sells more cars than the others, and other metrics. Clearly we can't just say "this car is the most Made in America auto out there." There's more to it than that.
We live in a global economy and few industries are as globalized as auto manufacturing. General Motors' Buick brand, for example, sells more cars in China than it does in the U.S. Chrysler, by contrast, only builds one model in the U.S. (the 200), the rest are made elsewhere. Fisker, much-maligned by the Republicans, is actually more American-made than are many of the Detroit 3's machines.
Going through all of these numbers, it becomes apparent that judging an automaker by only one metric to make it "Most American" is not exactly accurate. For example, here are the top five most American-made cars for 2012, according to NHTSA numbers:
1) Toyota Avalon (85%)
2) Chevrolet Express / GMC Savana (82%)
3) Toyota Sienna (80%), Honda Accord (80%), Honda Crosstour (80%), Ford Expedition (80%),
4) Chrysler 200 Convertible (79%)
5) Jeep Liberty (76%)
That's only the beginning, though. It doesn't say everything. Next, we can look at which automakers build the most models in the U.S. Consumer Reports released a list in 2011 that puts General Motors (including all nameplates) at 27, Ford at 14, Chrysler at 12, Honda at 10, Toyota at 9, and Nissan at 7. If you remove re-badged vehicles from the pool (i.e. a GMC 3500 and Chevrolet 3500), then the list shortens somewhat to make GM and Ford closer at 17 and 12, Chrysler at 9, Honda at 9, and Toyota and Nissan still at 9 and 7 respectively. For those wondering, a total of 101 models of vehicle are built in the U.S. overall.