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Hard to Define: What is an “American” Vehicle? | Elio Motors

The United States has a long and proud automotive history. Many Americans care deeply about supporting “Made in the US” companies and, over the years, have driven American vehicles with pride. The vast majority of consumers would prefer to purchase an American-made product, even if that product was more expensive. In a progressively global economy, however, it can become difficult to ascertain the definition of an American-made vehicle.




The definition of an “American-Made” vehicle is, at the very best, murky. According to The Street, “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration admits there’s no such thing as a 100% American car.” An automaker with an American mailing address does not necessarily manufacture their vehicles in the United States. Alternatively, a manufacturer might build a vehicle on American soil, but with very few American parts. In an attempt to create a rough definition of an American-made vehicle, has created the American-Made Index, which “rates vehicles built and bought in the U.S.. Factors include the percentage of parts considered domestic under federal regulations, whether the car is assembled in the U.S., and U.S. sales.”

The American-Made Index shows that vehicles with at least 75% American content are becoming increasingly rare. In 2010, 29 vehicles fit into this category. Today, the list has dwindled to a meager 7 vehicles made with at least 75% domestic content. 2015 was a tremendous year for the automotive industry, so why are fewer vehicles being manufactured with American content? The primary reason is that foreign parts are often cheaper. At the expense of American manufacturing, some automakers prefer to build their vehicles with foreign-made parts to keep price tags lower and to increase profit margins.

In an attempt to keep consumers informed, Congress passed the little-known American Automobile Labeling Act in 1994. While not perfect, the Act allows consumers to identify the country of origin of a vehicle and its parts. The Act has its critics, as it allows automakers to round up certain percentages, but still provides consumers with a reasonable idea of their vehicle’s nationality.

It may not be possible to buy an entirely American vehicle in 2016, but it is possible to buy a vehicle that is manufactured in the United States with mostly American content from an American company. Consumers today have more information at the tips of their fingers than ever before and can use this information to identify the most American vehicles available. As the auto sale boon continues, we should see a stronger demand for vehicles manufactured on American soil with American parts.

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