What does "buying American" really mean?

July 5, 2012 12:00 AM

For years, "buying American" has been one of the strongest trends in the U.S. auto industry. Many drivers want to support American workers and the economy, so they limit themselves to cars from America.

Yet the definition of an "American" car has become increasingly muddled. Almost all of the major foreign automakers have opened up factories in the U.S., which employ American workers and contribute tax dollars to the U.S. government just like everybody else. In fact, the most recent Cars.com "American-Made Index" rated the Toyota Camry as the "most American" car on the market. The model is made in Kentucky, uses mostly American parts, and employs a high number of workers due to its large sales volume.

A recent survey by AutoTrader found that when it comes to "American" vehicles, most shoppers don't care if it comes from a domestic automaker, such as Ford, General Motors or Chrysler. As long as the vehicle is made in the U.S., rather than by a U.S. company, most consider that to be "American" enough. Still, roughly 28 percent of respondents said they'd only buy from a U.S.-based automaker.

While buying American is important to many drivers, most just want a car that runs well. Keeping up with scheduled maintenance can ensure that a vehicle stays on the road for a long time, American or not.

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