Annual automotive-content indexes have grown in popularity since trade restrictions and tariffs have become increasingly relevant issues. But they’re usually pretty generic, often providing the broad strokes of product origin while placing a few cars housing the most regional content on a pedestal. Not so with the Kogod School of Business’ 2021 Made in America Auto Index. While the metrics used are a little different from what’s found elsewhere, it offers a more comprehensive data set than other catalogs.
Though most people still like to know which vehicles were dubbed the “most American” and Kogod’s percentage-based scoring system makes it pretty easy to figure out. We won’t leave you hanging. For the 2021 model year, the Ford Mustang GT was evaluated as the car boasting the highest level of North American hardware and labor. But you have to get a manual transmission for the necessary 88.5 percent total domestic content rating (TDC). Select the automatic and that number drops to 51 percent, which is still better than the Mustang Mach-E’s paltry 15-percent score.
The manual-equipped Mustang ousts the Ford Ranger pickup, which led in 2020, due to the pickup seeing a substantial reduction in U.S. and Canadian-sourced components. However the rest of the leaderboard looked more familiar. Kogod gave the Corvette Stingray (third last year) second place, with the Tesla Model 3 hot on its heels.
Of course, there’s always room for disagreement. While we really like the index, the TDC rating takes into account a myriad of little factors that can make a big difference. We already mentioned the manual Mustang. But it’s easy to find other examples. Let’s stick with Ford.
The 2.7-liter Ford Bronco boasts a total score of 80.5 percent whereas the 2.3-liter model could only achieve 66.5 percent due entirely to the smaller EcoBoost motor being produced in Valencia, Spain. But there are components that require far less parts and labor that can still move the needle — in addition to similarly relevant factors pertaining to development, domestic labor, and where the profits are going.
Honda Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (now Stellantis) consistently had vehicles yielding some of the highest domestic content in the entire industry. But they both took hits on their TDC ratings for having headquarters and/or R&D centers located outside North America. FCA/Stellantis also achieved incredibly low marks on models imported straight from Europe (e.g. Maserati), countering the decidedly American products coming out of the Dodge, RAM, Chrysler, and Jeep brands. But this applied to most multinational companies attempting to service numerous markets and really hurt Toyota, despite it having a strong presence in the United States.
In fact, some of the vehicles with the lowest TDC scores were the Japanese manufacturer’s imported luxury goods. The Lexus ES Hybrid, GX, LC, LS (below), LX, RC, and RX Prime all had total scores of just 1 percent. That’s even lower than Audi products, which averaged closer to 1.5 percent.
The index attempts to explain this by driving home the point that brands possess unique priorities and even similar vehicles can have vastly different content breakdowns. It also acknowledged that 2021 wasn’t a normal year, plagued by production stoppages and supply chain issues that forced some automakers to swap equipment suppliers on the fly.
From the Kogod School of Business:
Comparing total domestic content for all vehicles sold in the US by brand, irrespective of the location of assembly, results in the following table, which shows the relationship between total domestic content (TDC) for US-assembled vehicles compared to all vehicles in a manufacturer’s product line sold in the US. Honda, GM, Ford, and FCA, for example, average much higher overall TDC than VW and Volvo. This gives an idea of the extent to which manufacturers serve the US market with local production.
When looking at average TDC by manufacturers for cars assembled in the US, one finds a high of GM and Ford at over 70 percent and FCA, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Toyota, and Fiat Chrysler at 65-70 percent. BMW and Volvo reach a low at 35 and 30 percent, respectively. Tesla, which is not in the table, makes all of its cars in the US and has an average TDC of 81 percent. While the trend TDC for cars assembled in the US is consistent over time, both Daimler and Subaru saw significant drops in their average US content. This may be the result of US shortages of parts and components as the impacts of the covid pandemic created significant disruptions in automotive supply chains.
But if you just wanted to know who had the lowest TDC scores, it was a two-way tie between everything sold by Porsche AG and Mitsubishi Motors. Rather than associate the brands with their respective parent companies, Kogod just lumped their products together as exotic, un-American imports. Hilariously, this places Mitsubishi into the same camp as Lamborghini, Ferrari, and Aston Martin — none of which were included due to low sales.
It’s a slick little index and undoubtedly useful if you’re picking out a new vehicle and want to know how much of it is made in America. Though it will probably see more service as a way for you to lord over your patriotic friends’ automotive purchases. Either way, it’s worth bookmarking if you have any interest in this kind of stuff and significantly informative vs some alternative indexes.
[Images: Ford; Chevrolet; Lexus; Mitsubishi]