Buy American: Ten 2014 vehicles that wave the Stars and Stripes - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Buy American: Ten 2014 vehicles that wave the Stars and Stripes

2014 Ford F-150 (© Ford Motor Co.) 2014 Ford F-150 (© Ford Motor Co.)

By Bengt Halvorson

Deciding to buy an American vehicle can sound like a pretty straightforward mission. But as most shoppers focused on that will find out, it's not nearly as clear-cut as it sounds.

To outline flip sides of the argument, and issues you should consider: A vehicle is still the most labor-intensive major consumer purchase you'll likely make—and you want to keep those jobs in the U.S., right? Or is it more important to see the end profits of your purchase go to a company with its headquarters in the U.S.?

We're not going to parse that out for you here; but we believe that they're things you should consider, alongside noting both the assembly point of a vehicle and its North American content.

And if you're shopping for a new vehicle, that information is as close as the window sticker of each car. As the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), the arm of the federal government overseeing the program, explains, the American Automobile Labeling Act (AALA) requires automakers to provide a window-sticker label that shows the percentage of U.S./Canadian parts content, along with the names (and percentage) of other countries that contribute more than 15 percent of the content, the final assembly point, and the country (or countries) of origin for the engine and transmission.

The process can get a little tricky, as vehicle 'carlines' are assigned the same numbers in the AALA listing; so, for instance, if there's a hybrid model, or one model in the lineup that might have different components, it might have quite different numbers. And those numbers don't, of course, reflect the value of the labor put in.

But just looking at these numbers is both surprising, and revealing of the global nature of how many vehicles we get are built. A U.S. brand and a U.S. company doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get a primarily American vehicle.

Confusing origins from brand to brand, model to model

The Buick Encore, for instance, boasts 53 percent Korean content and 17 percent Chinese content—the largest number from China, among cars currently on sale in the U.S.

And while the Nissan Sentra might be assembled in the U.S., but it has only 16 percent U.S. content (for some versions). The South Carolina-built BMW X3 and X6 don't do much better, at 20 percent American content.

The numbers are also revealing about certain brands. Rolls-Royce, for instance, might be known for its quintessential British charm; but all of its current lineup, ranging from the Drophead Coupe and Phantom up to the Ghost and Wraith, contain 70 percent German content—and just 10 percent UK content.

Buy a Nissan Versa Note—a model from a Japanese (or Japanese-French) brand—and in some respects you're getting a Mexican car; it has nearly 65 percent Mexican content, with final assembly and various major pieces—including the engine and transmission—from our neighbors to the south.

According to AALA percentages for 2014, the GMC Express and GMC Savana are the two most American vehicles for 2014. These two models are essentially fleet-only machines at this point, and we limited our list to vehicles that we've reviewed and evaluated.

Next to that, the Dodge Grand Caravan has the single highest U.S./Canadian parts content, by a slight lead over other models; however it, and the nearly identical Chrysler Town & Country, are actually assembled in Canada. Detroit-area auto-industry might protest that these are locally built vehicles (it's just across the river); but hey, it is a different country. And in our list, we've placed an emphasis on U.S. assembly—since we are U.S.-based, with a primarily U.S. audience.

All ten of these models are about as close as you get nowadays to true American cars: each listed as having 75 (or more) percent U.S./Canadian parts content, and built in the U.S.—with most, if not all, of their labor-intensive powertrain components also assembled in the U.S. Click through to see what we have to say about them, and decide how important American-made is for you:

Dodge Avenger

Percent U.S./Canadian content: 76
Final assembly point: Sterling Heights, Michigan
Engines and transmissions from: U.S, Mexico
Bottom Line: The 2014 Dodge Avenger looks great and comes with a long list of features, but it's just not rewarding to spend time behind the wheel.

The Dodge Avenger scores a few percent higher on the federal percentage of U.S./Canadian content than the nearly identical Chrysler 200. Although the Avenger's replacement is still in limbo, the all-new 2015 Chrysler 200 keeps the current Sterling Heights, Michigan, assembly plant, primary engines, and a U.S.-sourced ZF nine-speed automatic transmission, so we expect to see these Chrysler mid-sizers remain near the top of the list.

Ford F-150

Percent U.S./Canadian content: 75
Final assembly point: Dearborn, Michigan; Claycomo, Missouri
Engines and transmissions from: U.S.
Bottom Line: The 2014 Ford F-150 grabs a share of the full-size pickup truck lead thanks to towing, technology, and toughness.

Ford sold more than three quarters of a million Ford F-150 pickups in 2013, and every one of them was made in America. With a high percentage of domestic content, U.S.-built engines and transmissions, and a head office in Dearborn, the 2014 Ford F-150 is without a doubt one of the most patriotic vehicle choices.

Honda Odyssey

Percent U.S./Canadian content: 75
Final assembly point: Lincoln, Alabama
Engines and transmissions from: U.S.
Bottom Line: With the 2014 Odyssey, Honda continues to innovate and offer up the most space-efficient interior for families, while driving better than most crossovers and SUVs.

While other automakers have abandoned minivans, Honda hasn't at all; in fact, it's continued to put more innovation into its Odyssey, with a top-notch safety reputation, a great entertainment system for backseat riders, and a new HondaVAC integral vacuum on top-of-the-line 2014 Odyssey Touring Elite models.

Honda Crosstour

Percent U.S./Canadian content: 75
Final assembly point: East Liberty, Ohio
Engines and transmissions from: U.S.
Bottom Line: The 2014 Honda Crosstour doesn't have a clear niche: it promises more room than the excellent Accord sedan, but doesn't net much extra space under its hatch.

The Crosstour is far more of a market oddity than either an Accord wagon or an outdoorsy, Outback-like vehicle. Yet in this overgrown hatchback we do see some solid crossover appeal for people who don't need all the practicality. And the Crosstour's American pedigree might sweeten the deal for some.

Toyota Avalon

Percent U.S./Canadian content: 75
Final assembly point: Georgetown, Kentucky
Engines and transmissions from: U.S., Japan
Bottom Line: The 2014 Toyota Avalon is far more youthful than it used to be, with a more responsive, sophisticated personality, an excellent interior, and a 40-mpg Hybrid version -- plus of course top-notch comfort all around.

The last-generation Toyota Avalon seemed to be a cushy, old-style American cruiser in spirit. And while the current Avalon that was introduced this past year is a much more sophisticated sedan, with much improved handling and still an excellent ride, we're happy to see it remain essentially an American car.

Toyota Camry

Percent U.S./Canadian content: 75
Final assembly point: Georgetown, Kentucky; Lafayette, Indiana
Engines and transmissions from: U.S., Japan
Bottom Line: The 2014 Toyota Camry may not be as attractive as some of its competitors, but it's now more than ever the most sensible choice for shoppers focused on value, frugality and comfort above all else.

Toyota has built its Camry in the U.S. for more than 25 years, and for that entire time it's been one of the best-selling sedans on the market. Furthermore, it was the most American vehicle for several years, based on its content percentage. It might be a Toyota, but it's more American by that gauge than any Chevy or Ford sedan.

Toyota Sienna

Percent U.S./Canadian content: 75
Final assembly point: Princeton, Indiana
Engines and transmissions from: U.S., Japan
Bottom Line: The Toyota Sienna only comes up shy in fold-away second-row seats and gas mileage; otherwise it's a leader in power and durability.

The 2014 Toyota Sienna minivan isn't quite as tech-savvy as Chrysler's minivans, or as cleverly packaged as the Honda Odyssey, but like those other two models it has a strong reputation with American families and it's built right here in the U.S. Although transmissions for the Sienna come from Japan, engines are built in the U.S.—and the vans are assembled in Indiana.

Toyota Tundra

Percent U.S./Canadian content: 75
Final assembly point: San Antonio, Texas
Engines and transmissions from: U.S., Japan
Bottom Line: A fresh new look and an upgraded interior with new technology make the 2014 Toyota Tundra an intriguing truck, but lackluster powertrains keep it from shining.

It might seem counterintuitive that Toyota's full-size pickup is actually tied with the Ford F-150 for American content, and that it actually has more U.S./Canadian content than the 'homegrown' Chevrolet Silverado 1500, GMC Sierra 1500, or Dodge Ram 1500—all of which have significant content from Mexico. And it's the Tundra that's built in Texas while the GM and Ram trucks are assembled in Mexico.

Chevrolet Corvette

Percent U.S./Canadian content: 75
Final assembly point: Bowling Green, Kentucky
Engines and transmissions from: U.S., Mexico
Bottom Line: The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray sets a new benchmark for value among well-equipped, comfortable, high-performance sports cars.

The all-new 'C7' 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is out on more of a world stage than ever—especially if you consider its performance numbers, and those of the wild new Corvette Z06. But, perhaps surprisingly, it's one of the most American cars on the market. The Stingray's Tremec TR6070 seven-speed manual gearbox is built in Mexico; we'd recommend it over the automatic, although you're technically getting more American-built pieces if you go with the latter.

SRT (Dodge) Viper

Percent U.S./Canadian content: 75
Final assembly point: Detroit, Michigan
Engines and transmissions from: U.S., Mexico
Bottom Line: The 2014 SRT Viper trades many of its rough edges for refined capability, but it's still a gruff, focused supercar.

The 2014 SRT Viper is built at Chrysler's legendary Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit—the one that's been building this outrageous sports car for nearly two decades. According to the federal rules, three quarters of the Viper's parts are U.S. or Canadian, and its mammoth V-10 is American-built—although both of its transmissions come from Mexico.


This story originally appeared at The Car Connection 

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