"Buy American," is an important criteria for many consumers as they think about supporting local jobs, buying local and helping the U.S. economy. But because large companies like automakers operate globally, defining "American" and "local" is actually quite difficult.
A new Harris poll asked consumers what company they viewed as "Most American" and 15 percent said Ford. General Motors and Chevy came in second with 9 percent of voters. Soft-drink icon Coca-Cola scored 4 percent of votes.
Each year, Cars.com calculates what cars can be ranked as "Most American." The analysis is based on where vehicles are built and where the parts and components in vehicles are sourced. In the 2012 Cars.com American Made Index, Ford only had one model, the F150 pickup, in the top ten.
Indeed, the "Most American" vehicle was the Toyota Camry, based on the facts the best-selling car in America is built in Kentucky and with mostly U.S. sourced parts. The Toyota Tundra pickup and Toyota Sienna minivan also landed in the top ten. Honda has both its Accord and Pilot SUV on the list. General Motors had three on the list – the GMC Acadia, Chevy Traverse, and Buick Enclave. The Jeep Liberty also made the list.
"What many consumers don't know is that companies very traditionally seen as American, from GE to John Deere to Levi Strauss, outsource varying portions of their operations overseas, so it takes a lot of attention and research to determine if you're buying American and what that specifically means to you," said Mike de Vere, President of the Harris Poll.
"Even the big three automakers – Ford, General Motors and Chrysler – two of whom were thought of as the most American brands in our findings, increasingly have cars in which parts are produced abroad, while Japanese automakers Toyota and Honda have upped U.S. production."
While there is much that divides the country, there is bipartisan support for buying more U.S. sourced goods and services to help create and protect jobs in the U.S. Seventy-five percent of Republicans and 74 percent of Democrats ranked buying American as "important" or "very important."
Of course, truly understanding the nuances of what could make a Toyota Camry more important than a Ford pickup or Jeep Liberty is a tall order for most car buyers. And auto executives at rival companies don't agree on definitions either, so that muddies the water even more for consumers.