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Just how ‘American’ is your car or truck?

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 6/29/2015 Christian Wardlaw
Is your American car really 100% 'American?' Even for a thoroughbred icon like the Corvette, the answer may surprise you.© Chevrolet Is your American car really 100% 'American?' Even for a thoroughbred icon like the Corvette, the answer may surprise you.

The Fourth of July: a day synonymous with fireworks, celebrations and, incidentally, a wild NASCAR race and the pursuit of selling cars that win.

On the day after America celebrates 239 years of independence, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) will hold a race at Daytona International Speedway. Contestants will drive vehicles that are styled to resemble the Chevrolet SS, Ford Fusion, and Toyota Camry, and after racing ‘em on Sunday, these car companies hope that NASCAR fans will buy ‘em on Monday.

But here’s a red-white-and-blue trivia challenge: Can you guess which member of this trio is the most American car of the three?

If you think the Camry is the most American, give yourself a fist bump and grab a cold one, because you’re absolutely right. According to the Kogod School of Business in Washington D.C., the Camry’s “total domestic content” measures 78.5%, while the Ford Fusion measures 62.5% and the Chevrolet SS musters just 15.5%.

© Christian Wardlaw | New York Daily News

So what exactly is going on here? After all, the Camry is a Japanese midsize sedan, right?

People realize that no vehicle sold in the U.S. is 100% American. People also realize that it is almost impossible to quantify which of the parts came from where, and what percentage of the total effort involved in creating the vehicle, from the sketch on the drawing board to the final product rolling off of an assembly line, qualifies as “American.”

Therefore, consumers simplify the definition of what makes a car American, ultimately qualifying any given vehicle by where the profits from the sale will flow.

Thus, a Chevy SS built in Australia is American, but a Toyota Camry made in Kentucky is not.

Talk about complicated: the company that builds the Dodge Charger Hellcat is headquartered in London, England!© Dodge Talk about complicated: the company that builds the Dodge Charger Hellcat is headquartered in London, England!

Of course, the recent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles merger has complicated this approach, now that the company that builds the Dodge Charger Hellcat is headquartered in London, England.

Argh! So confusing!

Don’t worry. Figuring out how to buy an American car is easy, thanks to the efforts of the Kogod School of Business. It has created a weighted index that takes into account multiple aspects of vehicle design, development, and production in order to establish which vehicles are the most American, and which are not.

For example, the index does consider whether or not a company has U.S. headquarters and where the profits flow. It also takes into account where the vehicle is designed and engineered, where it is produced, and where major components are made. In all, 12 different variables are assessed, with rankings assigned.

Figuring out how to buy an American car or truck is easy, thanks to the efforts of the Kogod School of Business.© Christian Wardlaw | New York Daily News Figuring out how to buy an American car or truck is easy, thanks to the efforts of the Kogod School of Business.

Once the numbers are crunched, Kogod gives each make and model a total domestic content (TDC) value, and lists the vehicles from highest to lowest based on that value.

Highlights from the Index

Six different vehicles tie for being the most American, with a TDC of 87.5 percent. They are listed below, in alphabetical order:

  • 2015 Buick Enclave
  • 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe
  • 2015 Chevrolet Corvette (with automatic transmission)
  • 2015 Chevrolet Traverse
  • 2015 GMC Acadia
  • 2015 GMC Acadia Denali

General Motors also has the #2 slot all wrapped up, with versions of its midsize pickup trucks and full-size vans featuring 83% TDC.

The 2015 Ford Fusion is a best-selling 'American' sedan, but it actually ranks below some of its Foreign counterparts in American parts content.© Christian Wardlaw | New York Daily News The 2015 Ford Fusion is a best-selling 'American' sedan, but it actually ranks below some of its Foreign counterparts in American parts content.

Ford appears on the list in the #3 slot, its F-Series, Expedition, Explorer, and Taurus making the grade at 82.5% TDC, along with the Cadillac ATS Sedan, Cadillac CTS, and Chevrolet Equinox.

To find a model from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), scan down the list to the #7 slot, where the Cherokee contains 79.5% TDC, just ahead of the 8th ranked Jeep Wrangler at 79% TDC.

Honda and Toyota share the #9 slot, with the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Camry, and Toyota Sienna all measuring 78.5% TDC.

South Korean brands Hyundai and Kia hit the chart in the #22 slot with the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and the Kia Sorento 4-cylinder (67% TDC).

The Fiat 500 actually ranks above cars like the Ford Fiesta and Chevy Trax in terms of TDC.© Christian Wardlaw | New York Daily News The Fiat 500 actually ranks above cars like the Ford Fiesta and Chevy Trax in terms of TDC.

The highest-ranked European vehicle is the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, at 42.5% TDC, putting the luxury SUV into the #48 slot on the index.

Generally speaking, then, Ford and General Motors build the “most American” vehicles.

However, remember that Chevy SS we mentioned earlier?

It has just 15.5% TDC, the same as the Chevrolet Caprice used by many police departments and government offices. The SS and Caprice hail from Australia, while another Chevrolet model with 15.5% TDC, the tiny little Spark, comes from South Korea.

Remember that Chevy SS we mentioned earlier? It has just 15.5% TDC, the same as the Chevrolet Caprice used by many police departments and government offices.© Christian Wardlaw | New York Daily News Remember that Chevy SS we mentioned earlier? It has just 15.5% TDC, the same as the Chevrolet Caprice used by many police departments and government offices.

Ford’s Fiesta contains just 19.5% TDC, and the new Chevy Trax is good for 20% TDC. Incredibly, both rank lower than a Fiat 500, at 29.5% TDC.

Here’s another fun fact: A Ford Fusion Energi, the plug-in hybrid version of the popular family sedan, is less “American” than a Nissan Leaf, at 34% TDC compared to 40% TDC.

If you want to buy the most American car, truck, or SUV that you can, here is the complete Kogod Made in America Auto Index.

Why Buying American is Important

If you thought a GMC Sierra was 'more American' than a Toyota Tundra, think again.© Christian Wardlaw | New York Daily News If you thought a GMC Sierra was 'more American' than a Toyota Tundra, think again.

America is part of the global economy and, as recent economic slumps helped prove, the world is a much smaller place when it comes to financial ups and downs.

But buying a vehicle with a high percentage of TDC does help keep Americans employed and the economy healthy, even if it doesn’t really matter where the profits ultimately flow. What matters are paychecks for American workers, at all levels of a new car’s design, engineering, and production process.

The Kogod Made in America Auto Index has made it easy to determine what’s actually the most beneficial purchase for keeping the American economy chugging right along, and what’s not.

Granted, you could simply continue defining American vehicles using outdated and inaccurate methods, exhorting that the GMC Sierra is an American truck (at 72.5% TDC) while the Toyota Tundra is an import (at 76% TDC). The truth is a bit more complicated, as it turns out.

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