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Shoppers Weigh In on 'Made in' vs. 'Made by' the USA

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author photo by Jeffrey Archer July 2012
  • An AutoTrader.com report says shoppers value cars built in the US.
  • Shoppers cite many economy-related factors for their views
  • Buyers also said they consider foreign vehicles built in the U.S. as "American."

Most car shoppers think it's more important to buy a car that's built in the United States than one that's made by an American automaker. So says the July edition of AutoTrader.com's Shopper Insights Report, which provides monthly snapshots of new information about in-market car buyers.

According to the report, more than 40 percent of car shoppers surveyed said that it's important to purchase a vehicle made in the United States by American workers. But fewer than 30 percent of respondents indicated that it's important to buy a vehicle made by an American automaker.

For most car shoppers, the reason for prioritizing American workers over domestic automakers is all about the economy. Respondents indicated the number-one reason for buying a vehicle that's built in the U.S. is to protect American jobs, while number two and number three are to support the U.S. economy and to keep American dollars at home. For many shoppers, that means they believe purchasing a U.S.-built Toyota or Honda is more patriotic than buying a Ford or Chevrolet manufactured outside the United States.

That works out well for several import brands that have been building cars in the U.S. for decades. Toyota produces 12 vehicles in North America, including such popular models as the Avalon, Camry and the Tacoma. Honda builds the Accord, Civic, Crosstour, CR-V, Pilot and Ridgeline in the U.S. Both Volkswagen and Nissan build cars in the U.S. as well.

"There's no doubt that buying American products supports the U.S. economy, but Made in the U.S.A doesn't have to mean made by a U.S. manufacturer," said Rick Wainschel, AutoTrader.com's vice president of automotive insights. "With the global nature of the auto industry, many vehicles from foreign automakers are manufactured right here in the U.S., enabling car shoppers to feel that they are still supporting the U.S. economy and job creation for American workers."

The Shopper Insights Report also revealed that buyers tend to have a strict definition of the term "U.S. made." According to the report, a car manufactured by a foreign automaker in the U.S. is more likely to be viewed as U.S. made than a car built elsewhere by a U.S. automaker. That means shoppers are more likely to consider the South Carolina-built BMW X3 U.S. made than the Ford Fiesta, which is built in Mexico.

Due to favorable exchange rates and high demand, foreign automakers are increasingly building production facilities in the United States. Examples include Volkswagen, which recently opened a plant near Chattanooga, Tennessee, to build its Passat sedan; Kia, which recently completed a plant in west Georgia where the Sorento SUV and Optima sedan are manufactured; and Chevrolet, which began production of its subcompact Sonic in Orion Township, Michigan, last year.

Car owners interested in finding out where their vehicle was made can check their Vehicle Identification Number, a 17-digit code located on the driver's door jamb. The first character of the VIN identifies a car's production location, with 1, 4 and 5 for the U.S., 2 for Canada, 3 for Mexico, 6 for Australia, S for Great Britain, W for Germany, J for Japan, K for South Korea, Y for Sweden, V for France and Z for Italy.

What it means to you: More shoppers agree: if you're interested in buying American, focus on build location rather than manufacturer.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Shoppers Weigh In on 'Made in' vs. 'Made by' the USA - Autotrader