Can certain cars and trucks be good or bad for the U.S. economy?
The answer is yes. But the list of vehicles that are good or bad for the economy is as debatable as who should occupy the White House next January 21st, whose baseball team is better and what vehicles are, in fact, most "American."
One might think that cars from Detroit's big-three are best for the U.S. economy. Not so fast. A Jeep Patriot is assembled in the U.S., but only has about two-thirds of its parts and pieces sourced from inside the U.S., and the Jeep brand is owned by Fiat, a company based in Italy. Meantime, a Toyota Sequoia SUV is built in the U.S., and has about 80% of its parts sourced in the U.S.
What would be the most American car based on where it is built, U.S. content, etc.? Ford F-Series pickup built in Dearborn Michigan? Nope, not even close. But it depends on who you ask.
Cars.com compiles an annual American-Made Index and lists the Toyota Camry as the #1 car for U.S. content and assembly. Honda Accord is #2. The first U.S. brand on the list is the Ford Escape at #3, followed by the Ford Focus at #4. But the Focus could well drop off in the next survey because Ford is now building the Focus for global consumption and has broadened the parts procurement for the car globally. The F Series didn't even make the most recent top-ten list.
Cars.com is not the last word on this. While Ford may source more of its parts from Mexico and South America than it used to, the profits from Ford vehicles sold in the U.S. come back to the U.S., while profits to foreign owned companies--while some of them get invested in the U.S.-- go back to Europe or Korea, or Japan in the case of Toyota.
AOL Autos has compiled a list of vehicles that we feel represent the "worst" car purchases for the U.S. economy. Auto companies may disagree, but our criteria was based on how much money the vehicle soaks up from a U.S. buyer, with the profits largely leaving the country and invested abroad. We also took into account lousy fuel economy, with gas guzzlers taking money away from other purchases that might otherwise go to consumer spending that would better benefit the U.S. economy. These choices are not sales weighted, but rather we looked at individual models to evaluate their job killing qualities on an individual sales basis.
8. MINI Cooper
The MINI Cooper is an increasingly popular vehicle, with sales climbing steadily toward 100,000 in North America. But the car is designed in Germany and built in the U.K., with profits repatriated back to Germany. It will be a purchase better for the economy if BMW ever starts building them at its growing South Carolina assembly plant. On the positive side, The MINI is not only a terrific and affordable car to drive, but it also gets good fuel economy.
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7. Dodge Journey
The Dodge Journey sources 62% of its parts outside the U.S. and is assembled in Mexico. The crossover, now part of the Fiat-Chrysler alliance, contributes to Chrysler's growing white-collar presence in Michigan, but its economic impact is mitigated by its foreign content. No question that Chrysler has been good for adding jobs back to Michigan, but this vehicle isn't exactly "Imported from Detroit" as the company's slogan goes.
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6. Ford Fiesta
Thought we would blow your minds and put the Ford Fiesta on this list because it has just 10% U.S. content and is assembled in Mexico. And since it is likely Ford's least profitable vehicle, the Fiesta contributes little profit to U.S. headquarters in Michigan. Ford Motor Co. is a huge U.S. job creator, and is the only U.S. automaker that did not go through a government assisted bankruptcy reorganization in 2009. We like the Fiesta a lot, especially when compared with foreign rivals like Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa and Hyundai Accent. But this car on its own is not much of a job creator for the U.S.
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5. Volvo XC90
The Volvo XC90 seems like an unlikely choice for a U.S. economy killer. But since the uber-safe family SUV is built in Sweden and is owned by Chinese automaker Geely, it's tough to see this as much more than a safe, 'conservative job killer for the U.S. There was talk a few years ago, when Volvo was owned by Ford, about building Volvo SUVs in Chicago. We wish they would have.
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A Range Rover seems like a good idea when you check it out, and contemplate spending about $95,000 on a supercharged version of the storied British SUV. But stop and think about all that money going back to England where the vehicle is buyout and to India to Tata Motors, the company that owns Land Rover these days. We know Range Rover owners don't care about the 12 mpg in the city, but we do.
3. Mercedes-Benz G550
This SUV is based on a German military vehicle and costs around $110,000 by the time you get out the door of the dealership. Another name for this vehicle is "Overkill." Seriously, it's for people who find a Range Rover too commonplace. Eastern European new-money titans especially like this car. It also turns up on a lot of law-enforcement impound lists after organized crime lords and drug dealers are nabbed. The 13 mpg rating is pretty annoying too. Try buying an Alabama-built Mercedes M Class or a Detroit-built Jeep Grand Cherokee.
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2. Bentley Mulsanne
The Bentley Mulsanne is pure prestige and driving delight. But it is also a money suck of about $290,000, with profit going back to the Volkswagen Group of Germany and its manufacturing center in Crewe, England. A few dealers in the U.S. make out well on profit, but on the whole, $290K could buy about ten Toyota Camrys or Jeep Wranglers that would do much more for U.S. jobs.
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1. Bugatti Veyron
The Bugatti Veyron will go up to 265 mph on the strength of its 1001-hp engine. The cost: a mere $$2,250,880. All that silly money spent not only goes to the Volkswagen Group in Germany, but could be spent on much better stuff that would benefit the U.S. economy and charities if the 1-percenters who buy this machine put a little imagination into the thought process of how they will part with that much money. Don't get us wrong. The VW Group has been good for the U.S., as it has built a new plant in Tennessee, with plans to expand. But buying the VW Passat is what will support those jobs and add more.
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