What makes a car American?
How American is your car or truck? A badge can only tell you so much; many so-called American cars are partly or mostly built abroad, and many "imports" are built right in the United States by American workers with a high percentage of domestic content.
That's why the Kogod Made in America Auto Index is so fascinating. It's put out by American University's Kogod School of Business, and tries to comb through all the various subtleties of manufacturing to determine the total domestic content of a vehicle. It looks at additional factors that go beyond the American Automotive Labeling Act requirements that show parts content origin on the window sticker.
It's an interesting and eye-opening look into what makes an American car or truck truly American. Let's take a look at the 10 most American cars and trucks.
Number 10: Cadillac Escalade
This fourth-generation Escalade is among the most important Cadillacs since the division's renaissance kicked into high gear. It's the brand's de facto flagship, and the first vehicle many young people think of when hearing the name "Cadillac." In the past, the Escalade was the chosen vehicle of the rich, flashy, and famous.
It's also 82.5 percent American, according to the Kogod index, but to show you how complicated things can get it's only three slots above the Honda Accord, which has 81 percent American parts content and is built in Marysville, Ohio.
Number 9: GMC YukonSince the Yukon and the Escalade are so closely related, it's no surprise that this SUV follows closely on the heels of its Cadillac sibling and just ahead of its less-fancy Chevy Tahoe/Suburban relatives. In addition to more American parts content compared to the Chevrolets, the most obvious benefit brought by the Yukon Denali is its standard 6.2-liter V8 engine. Its 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque is an immediately noticeable improvement over the Tahoe's 5.3-liter eight, which makes 355 hp and 383 lb-ft, especially when taking off from a dead stop or when passing on the highway.
Number 8: Chevy MalibuAt the eighth position is the new Malibu, which comes in at the same 82.5 percent domestic parts content as its predecessors on this list. This new Malibu is most notable for being both larger than its downsized predecessor and lighter. And it's not insignificant: Chevy claims the difference is up to 300 pounds.
Number 7: Chevy ImpalaRiding on a platform shared with the Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac XTS, the Impala competes against the Hyundai Azera, Ford Taurus, and Toyota Avalon on the more traditional side, while also looking to take a bite out of somewhat sportier models like the Chrysler 300/Dodge Charger twins and the Nissan Maxima. It also bests all these cars in domestic parts content, at 82.5 percent.
Number 6: Chevy EquinoxThe current Chevy Equinox debuted over five years ago, in late 2009. Since then, the midsize crossover segment has become increasingly important, with brand-new entries meeting substantially overhauled versions of existing nameplates. But the Equinox carries on, largely unchanged aside from some exterior restyling. It probably won't shock you to find out it doesn't break any ground in the domestic parts content percentage either: it's the same 82.5 percent as the last car.
Number 5: Chevy CorvetteWe love the C7 Corvette, and not because it just edged out the Equinox with total domestic parts content of 83 percent. It's because this relatively affordable sports car provides so much thrust and handling ability, even in the base model, that it represents an incredible performance bargain. Add to those plaudits the fact that it's stunning and has a massively improved interior over its predecessor, and it's a mostly American home run.
Number 4: Ford F-150The first non-GM product and the first Ford on the list is the F-150, a wildly popular vehicle that has been a best-seller year after year. The big news for the latest F-150 is the aluminum-intensive body, which makes the truck both lighter and more corrosion resistant, as well as Ford's signature EcoBoost turbocharged engine options. More notable for this list is the domestic parts content, at 85 percent.
Number 3: GMC Acadia
This is the outgoing, not-downsized GMC Acadia, which has a rather stunning 90 percent domestic parts content. The Acadia and its platformmates, the Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave, are built in Michigan and have historically sold quite well, especially recently in this hot market for crossovers and SUVs.
For 2017, the GMC Acadia will be significantly downsized, dropping tons of weight and a bit of interior space. It's an improvement over the original, although we don't yet know if it maintains its American content status.