Although 8.5 million cars and light trucks were assembled in the United States last year, the traditional Big Three automakers, Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors, only accounted for about 5 million of those. The remaining 3 million were built in the United States in American plants for manufacturers such as Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Honda, and BMW. Making it more confusing is that the Big Three also have assembly plants in Canada and Mexico. Thus, American car buyers are faced with the question of whether a car manufactured by a company with its headquarters in Japan, but which has been built in Ohio, as is the Honda Accord, is more American than is a car from an American company headquartered in Michigan selling cars manufactured in Mexico, as is, for example, the Ford Fusion.
Toyota is the leading producer of vehicles built in the United States beating out Chrysler last year by a slight margin. In fact, Honda has been building its vehicles in the United States since as early as 1982 in its plant in Marysville Ohio. And in the 80s and 90s Canadian and Mexican plants were already turning out cars for the Big Three American manufacturers.
Therefore, what is euphemistically called “domestic content,” may not be domestic at all. Domestic content may include parts made in Canada and Mexico. However, while American auto workers are assembling vehicles in American plants for foreign manufacturers, labor is excluded from the determination of what is American-built. Thus, foreign auto manufacturers with assembly plants in the United States cannot factor in the value of American labor, nor be credited for it.
To further confuse matters while, for example, Honda builds its engines in its plant in Ohio for the Acura RTX, the country of origin is still listed as Japan. The reason is that one expensive part, the turbocharger, is actually manufactured and imported from Japan although installed by workers in the Ohio plant.
Clearly, determining whether a car is American-built is confusing and oftentimes misleading.