Modern vehicles are incredibly complicated and made from thousands of different parts from different suppliers around the world. Beyond that, even companies based here in the US often manufacture cars in Mexico or Canada for various reasons. So, how do you go about picking a car if buying one that contributes the most to our economy matters to you?
That's what the Cars.com American-Made Index (AMI) is for. This, now in its 15th year of publication, looks at several factors that determine how beneficial a vehicle is to America's bottom line. This index looks specifically at assembly location, parts sourcing as defined by the American Automobile Labeling Act, US factory employment relative to vehicle production, engine sourcing and transmission sourcing.
So what tops the 2020 list? Somewhat unsurprisingly, it's a Ford truck, though in this case, it's maybe not the one that springs to mind at first. It's actually the recently reintroduced Ford Ranger midsize pickup, which is built in the small Michigan suburb of Wayne at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant, formerly known as the Michigan Truck Plant.
The Ranger's engine -- that's the 2.3-liter EcoBoost for those of you playing at home -- was once produced exclusively in Valencia, Spain, but it's since been moved to Ford's Cleveland Engine Plant in Ohio, likely pushing the fourth-gen Ranger into the top spot.
Second on the list is the Jeep Cherokee, which is built in Belvidere, Illinois at the creatively named Belvidere Assembly Plant. The KL-generation Cherokee has been that facility's sole product since 2017.
Tesla Model S and Model 3
The third and fourth entries come from a state that's not typically thought of as a big automobile producer but is becoming increasingly important as electric and autonomous vehicle developments proceed. The Tesla Model S and Model 3 (in third and fourth place, respectively) are not only designed and built in America but so are their battery packs.
The Model S is assembled exclusively at Tesla's Fremont, California factory, and most of the world's supply of Model 3 is, too. China has its own Tesla factory near Shanghai, which we've covered at length, but that is currently only producing Chinese-market new-energy vehicles.
Honda Odyssey, Ridgeline and Passport
Numbers 5, 6 and 7 on the list all come from the same manufacturer in the same plant. It's Honda, and the vehicles are the Odyssey, the Ridgeline and the Passport, in that order. The plant is in Lincoln, Alabama and employs somewhere around 4,000 workers. It also served as the home of V6 Accord production for a few years, until that got moved back to the Marysville, Ohio plant.
That a foreign carmaker ranks so highly on the American Made Index shouldn't be surprising -- Honda has been in the top three for the last two years running. The cost of import tariffs, combined with shipping costs and a lack of desirability of certain models in other global markets (Europe doesn't buy as many large trucks, for example) means that basing production of vehicles like trucks and SUVs in the US makes a ton of financial sense.