Is Buying An American Car Trendy?

Poll Shows Uptick In Patriotic Sentiment

Jim Kosobucki knows better than most that consumers increasingly are looking to buy an American car. He says the used lot at his South Florida Buick-GMC dealership is "full" of Audis, Acuras, Infinitis and Toyotas that his customers have traded in for a GM vehicle.

"In South Florida, it's a very foreign-car market. Lexus, BMW and Audi do very well. But in the past couple of years we have had more of a type of person looking to go back to an American car," he says. "Most people know that a General Motors car is an American-made car."

Although GM has not specifically pushed its Buick flagship brand as "American Made" -- unlike, say, Dodge or Jeep's patriotically themed marketing -- it's clear that customers are increasingly taking an interest in where their vehicles are built.

Looking For An American Made Vehicle

According to a recent Rasmussen Reports poll, some 41 percent of car buyers said they look for an American-built car first when shopping for automobiles. That's equivalent to the 41 percent of respondents to the same poll that said they look for the best possible deal regardless of where the car is manufactured. Just 12 percent of buyers prefer foreign-built cars, according to Rasmussen.

Those numbers have changed since June 2008, when 51 percent of Rasmussen respondents said finding the best deal was their top priority and just 32 percent placed more importance on "buying American."

And while AOL Autos has previously found it's impossible to buy a 100-percent American-built car, there are some consumer advocates that are trying to help buyers make up their mind about how best to support domestic car companies and the U.S. economy, in this midst of this grinding recession.

Ownership Matters

Roger Simmermaker, the author of "How Americans Can Buy American," told AOL Autos that to buy an American car, "consumers need to consider more than just buying one made in the U.S.A. To truly buy American, we need to buy an American-made car from an American-owned company -- GM, Ford or Chrysler -- with a high domestic parts-content.

"The ownership of a company matters because American companies have more factories in America, pay more taxes to America, get more of their parts from America, and support more workers, retirees and their dependents in America," he says.

He points out that GM and Ford source nearly 70 percent of their parts from domestic sources while Toyota and Nissan only get 35 percent and 30 percent of their parts from America, respectively. He also notes that foreign-owned companies like Kia and VW also have received large tax incentives from the U.S. government for building plants in the United States.

Using Social Networking

Mike Beckham devotes a Facebook page to buying American cars, and has built a base of 4,000 followers on the page he started in 2008 with two university colleagues from Cleveland, Ohio. Driven by his love for American cars, Beckham said U.S. car companies have fallen victim to "bad press."

"American car companies are building more fuel efficient, safe, and reliable cars than ever before," he says.

According to Beckham, the most American product currently on the market is the Ford Escape, which has a 90-pecent domestic parts content and is assembled in Kansas City, Mo.

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data from 2009, the domestic-parts-content for the Ford Taurus is also 90 percent, the Lincoln MKS comes in at 85 percent, the Buick Lucerne touts 81 percent, and the Chevrolet Malibu gets 80 percent of its parts from domestic sources.

Brian Grewe, an electrical engineering student in Northville, Mich., also uses Facebook to urge consumers to buy a car from American manufacturers. Grewe said he has fixed up and tinkered with American-made cars for as long as he can remember, and his dedication to Detroit comes from witnessing first-hand the recent turbulence in the domestic auto market.

"It sometimes seems that the rest of the nation has a resentment to the American auto industry, maybe because of the bail-out or when they had quality issues," he says. "As of the last few years, it's more about politics. People will connect GM and Chrysler and Ford to politics more than quality of the cars."

Grewe pointed to GM's Chevy Volt as evidence of American innovation while acknowledging it's actually impossible to buy a purely American car. "It's a global economy, there's no way to avoid that. We're mainly looking out for where most of the work is done and where the money is going," he says.

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