Guidance on finding the best ‘American’ cars

“Buy American” is a slogan that’s getting a lot of attention lately, but it can be tough to put into practice when you’re car shopping.

A U.S.-built 2017 Chevrolet Colorado with a diesel engine and a manual transmission might sound American through and through. But in that configuration, the Colorado is a worldly truck. The diesel engine is built in Thailand, and the transmission is made in Brazil. In other words, a U.S. automaker’s badge isn’t a sure marker of an American car.

American content in cars has been falling for several years, says Frank DuBois, a global supply chain expert and a professor at the Kogod School of Business at American University. DuBois is the creator of the Made in America Auto Index , which since 2013 has ranked automotive “American-ness” in a time of increasingly globalized car-making.

In 2013, the 30 most American vehicles in the index had an average of 77 percent “domestic” content (meaning from the U.S. and Canada; the U.S. labeling law doesn’t consider Mexico a domestic source). By 2017, that figure had slipped to 72.5 percent.

If you don’t want to pore over window stickers one by one to find the most American cars, here’s a helpful list from car-buying website Edmunds: 10 excellent vehicles that all are U.S.-built, with significant domestic content. Half are from U.S.-based carmakers. The rest are from carmakers that are based in Japan and build cars in the U.S.

Edmunds began the list with its 2017 New Car Buying Guides, which highlight its reviewers’ top picks by vehicle type. Then Edmunds put those selections through the Made in America Auto Index. It ranks vehicles based on seven factors, including:

Where the car was built.
Where the manufacturer is headquartered.
Where research and development take place.
Where the engine is built.
Where the transmission is built.
Where the body, chassis and electrical components are made.
A rank of 1 is the highest possible for a vehicle. If you’re shopping for a 2018 car, you’ll have to wait several months for rankings. DuBois can’t start work on the next index until later this year, when carmakers report vehicle content to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.