Few countries can boast as vibrant an auto industry as the United States of America. Our Henry Ford revolutionized how cars are built, while quite a few other start-ups participated in the early days of this industry. For decades, the industry was dominated by the Big 3: Ford, Chrysler, and GM. Now, of course, the story is a bit more complicated, with U.S. companies building some cars abroad and some foreign companies running plants here, employing thousands. But this selection of cars represents the most historic United States marques, and one all-American newcomer.
Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company in 1903. The Ford family remains in control of the company, which is based in Dearborn, Michigan. The new Focus is a good example of the continuing mission of the company to build quality, affordable cars. It also represents Ford's efforts to offer technology most often seen in luxury cars to the masses.
Dodge began building cars in 1915, in Detroit, and became part of Chrysler in 1928. From producing touring cars and World War II military trucks, the company went on to come up with legendary models such as the Dart, the Challenger, and the Charger. The revived Charger retains the muscle car ethos with rear-wheel drive and available powerful V-8s.
The oldest American automotive brand, Buick was a founding company in General Motors. Its luxury cars have been owned by members of the British royal family and the last emperor of China. The new LaCrosse represents the revival of this brand in the new century, providing affordable and economical luxury.
Jeep, part of the Chrysler Group, was made famous in World War II. The General Purpose vehicle, or GP, was rugged and cheap to build, giving American troops excellent mobility. The current Wrangler retains some of the looks of its predecessor, and doubles down on the offroad capability.
Chevy came on the scene in 1911, founded by racing driver Louis Chevrolet. The company became part of General Motors in 1918, joining Buick. As its most popular brand, Chevy has come to represent GM for most Americans. The Volt represents the company's interest in innovation, its willingness to meet the challenges of a new century yet still provide people with the capabilities they have come to expect in a car.
Tesla may seem a strange fit in the company of these legendary automakers, but its founding at the beginning of this century may be the beginning of a new chapter in the American auto industry. Although not based in Michigan, the company is as American as they come, building its vehicles from the ground up in its California plant. The Model S should be the first in a line of completely electric vehicles.