Domestic-Parts Content: Where the Automakers Stand

Camarolineup

Cars.com’s annual American-Made Index rates cars built and bought in the U.S. The percentage of domestic content used in each car plays a major role in the index; we use the domestic-parts content rating that’s been required on new-car labels since the mid-1990s. The top-placing Toyota Camry, for example, has an 80% domestic-parts content rating for the 2010 model. But where do automakers’ entire lineups rank against each other in terms of their vehicles’ domestic-parts content, particularly when you weight the cars by how many they sell?

It’s no simple task to determine — you’ll see some wrinkles below — but we took our best shot. Weighted for sales, here’s how the big players measure up in domestic-parts content:

GM: 69%
Ford Motor Co.: 64%
Chrysler Corp.: 60%
Honda/Acura: 58%
Toyota/Lexus/Scion: 44%
Nissan/Infiniti: 31%
Mitsubishi: 25%
Subaru: 20%
Mercedes-Benz: 16%
Suzuki: 12%
Mazda: 11%
Volkswagen/Audi: 9%
BMW/Mini: 5%
Jaguar/Land Rover: 3%
Porsche: 3%

General Motors, which fielded three models in this year’s AMI, leads the pack at 69%. Credit strong sellers like the Chevy Malibu and Pontiac G6 (both 80%). While we disqualified the G6 in the AMI — as it’s being discontinued along with the rest of Pontiac — we didn’t for this list because this one is only concerned with the overall level of domestic parts that automakers’ cars and trucks use. Ford comes in second, even though Volvo (which it owns) has a lineup with minimal domestic-parts content. That drags its parent down roughly 2 percentage points. Chrysler rounds out the top three at 60%. Interestingly, Honda ranks the highest among Japanese automakers, thanks in part to heavy-hitters like the Odyssey (80%), Accord (65%) and Pilot (70%). Toyota landed a record four cars on the AMI, but its aggregate parts content remains a less-impressive 44%. Why? Despite popular cars like the Camry (75% for 2009 model, 80% for 2010), Tundra (80%) and Sienna (85%), the automaker has more than a dozen models with domestic-parts content ratings south of 30%.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration publishes a list each model year for domestic-parts content. To see where car companies stand, we weighted NHTSA’s 2009 domestic-parts content ratings against each model’s year-to-date sales through June. You’ll note that NHTSA doesn’t report every brand out there: A handful of brands, from Hyundai/Kia to Smart, haven’t yet been reported. We asked NHTSA why, and we’ll let you know when we get a response.

We aren’t the first group to compile this sort of ranking. The Automotive Trade Policy Council, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that represents the Detroit Three automakers, compiled aggregate domestic-parts content ratings in 2006. Back then, ATPC found Detroit automakers had sales-weighted parts content of 76%, while Japanese companies came to 48%.

Keep these figures in mind as you read the American-Made Index. The Camry may be the most American car this year, but when you’re looking at the domestic-parts content of an entire automaker, Detroit still comes out on top.

Comments 

H

Thanks for this analysis.

Original sheth

Much more informative overall, especially when you consider the AMI excluded any vehicles made in Canada regardless of domestic content. There is a huge gap between Honda and Toyota/Nissan. I will give Honda credit for investing heavily here and having high US content. Not so for the other two which are widely lauded for how many cars they build in America. This list proves there is more to a car than final assembly. The numbers don't lie. Where is Hyundai? They have a US plant so I wonder where they stack up. Toyota has numerous products that are assembled here from parts imported from Japan. Toyota's engine/tranny capacity in NA is FAR less than its vehicle capacity. That means it imports lots of powertrains from Japan. They know most Americans only care about final assembly though.

O.S.--
Hyundai/Kia have no reported figures yet, per NHTSA's lists. We'll keep you posted if and when the numbers come in.

Kelsey

Dan

Does "domestic content" here mean strictly made in the US, or is it North American content (I.e. also include Canada)?

J

Also, my question is that if a part is made in America but used to assemble the car in Mexico, does it still toward the car maker's domestic content?

GR

At first glance, I thought the title was Domestic-Partnership ... I thought, oh lord, now the carmakers are getting into our beds too?

Dan--
As defined by Congress' American Automobile Labeling Act, "domestic" content as it pertains to AALA stickers is U.S. or Canada. An imperfect gauge, but better than the other major content-ratings systems: Both NAFTA and CAFE figures, which rate domestic content, lump Mexico into the "domestic" pool.

J--
Correct. If a part is majority-sourced, by cost, from the U.S. or Canada, it counts as domestic no matter where the car is built.

KM

J

Kelsey,

Then it should reduce its American content.
Because Canada is Canada, US is US.
Also, they are shipping the manufacturer jobs from US to Mexico.

Dave Wuss

At the end of the day Americans don't care about parts content, they care about quality. The same goes for American workers. Look at how many people GM has laid-off. Most Americans are probably not aware that Toyota has never laid-off one single American worker - an amazing accomplishment. As long as Americans can keep a roof over their head and food on the table they don't care what company they work for (and rightfully so). Ask any unemployed auto worker if they care how much "American" content is in cars these days.

Dan

Kelsey -
Thanks!

Felix Chesterfield

Will GM's bankruptcy affect a site like this for truck and auto parts ?

Original sheth

Dave:

Companies that are expanding sales and models dont lay off people. Its common sense. Which is why you probably dont get it. GM probably didn't lay anyone off for its first 60 years of existence because its sales were steadily increasing. Once you shrink or the market collapses, layoffs follow. Toyota's hiring days are likely over for the foreseeable future. Only one direction to go now, down.

Original sheth

J:

No one is "shipping" jobs to Mexico. Mexico and Canada require that companies selling cars there manufacture there. GM and others HAVE to make vehicles in Mexico if they want to sell there. VW and Nissan also make vehicles in Mexico for this reason. The US isnt smart enough to have such a policy and thus VW/AUDI, Jaguar, Volvo and others have been here for decades with no US production.

J--
I agree. Unfortunately, the AALA lumps the U.S. and Canada together as a "domestic" source. That's slightly better than U.S./Canada/Mexico being "domestic," albeit not an entirely satisfactory measure to yourself or us. Right now, however, AALA is the only publicly available measure for domestic parts content. (NAFTA and CAFE measures are not.) Several analysts have told us the AALA breakdown by country is dubious, if not a total crapshoot, to separate. Automakers are only required to report the percent that comes from the U.S. and Canada, not which is which. Like I said: AALA DPC is an imperfect measure, but it's the best one we have right now.

Kelsey

J

OS just slapped himself again.
Doesn't he get tired of that?

David Mackey

I think your figures are a little off. The Chevy Volt who everyone is holding up as the great American savior is : US/Canadian content 40%, Korea20% engine:Austria, electric drive :Japan.The batteries are nopt made in Michigan as people think but made in Korea and assembled here.

JTK

Please do this again for 2012. It's so informative.

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