1, 4, or 5.
One of these digits is found at the beginning of the vehicle identification number (VIN) of each and every car or truck built in the United States.
But contrary to widely held beliefs, not all cars built in America wear American brand names. Indeed, like hamburgers, pizza, and "freedom fries," some of the most savory American automotive treats originated in other countries but are now made right here in the U. S. of A. -- a foreign badge doesn't mean foreign workers built the car.
Moreover, if they include at least 50 percent American parts by content, even cars and trucks wearing import brand names are officially designated as "domestic" products and thus avoid being slapped with import tariffs and taxes that would otherwise apply. Since these charges would eventually get passed along to the consumer, skirting them allows for lower sticker prices.
It's not just a tax thing anymore. In recent years, American plants have become more and more important as hedges against the sinking dollar. This explains why Volkswagen, Kia, and Audi are planning assembly lines here, and other foreign brands currently building cars in the U.S. have plans to build even more plants here -- bringing their suppliers with them -- and some will even export the products right back to their homelands.
It's not foreign flattery -- it's just plain good business. Thus we bring you the following five surprising ways to buy American: vehicles built right here in America by American hands.
2008 Honda Accord
One import-branded domestic product we're particularly fond of here at Car and Driver is the Honda Accord. Having spent about three-quarters of its three decades in the U.S. market also occupying a spot on the Car and Driver 10Best list, the Accord is easily one of the best family sedans ever.
But the Accord has another point of distinction that gives it bragging rights of a more patriotic kind. In 1982 in Marysville, Ohio, the Accord became the first Japanese-branded automobile to be built in the United States. Since then, Honda has expanded its U.S. operations to the point that a whopping 80 percent of Hondas and Acuras sold in the U.S. are built here. (Some U.S.-bound Honda Accords are built in Japan, so make sure that VIN starts with a 1, 4, or 5.)
Over the years, the Accord has grown and evolved, but what hasn't changed is the car's reputation for quality and reliability, which has helped keep Hondas among the most sought-after new cars by consumers not only on account of their stellar engineering and user-friendly designs but also because of their quality craftsmanship. That should make the Americans who build them proud to build Hondas -- and those who buy them proud to buy American.
2008 BMW X5
BMW became the first German automaker to open a U.S. factory when it began building the 318i sedan in Spartanburg, South Carolina, back in 1994. Since then, the plant has become the world's source for the Z4, X5, and now X6 models. Soon, after the plant's upcoming expansion is complete, the X3 will also be U.S.-made, although, to make even more room, Z4 production will return to das Mutterland. When all is said and done, BMW will have capacity to build nearly a quarter-million SUVs in Spartanburg annually. Perhaps they should make that white and blue propeller on BMW hoods a red, white, and blue propeller.
Another reason to buy an American Bimmer is less about patriotism and more about just plain fun. Down the road in Spartanburg is the BMW Performance Center, where you can take delivery of your newborn X5 or X6 (or any BMW, actually -- even the German-built ones) and then attend precision driving and safety courses on the performance center's track and skidpad facility. Cough up enough dough, and you'll wind up tail-out in an M5 for a day or two. Then you can tackle South Carolina's fabulous roads in your X5 with newfound aplomb.