Just what is an 'American' car?

The 2013 Honda Accord is built in the U.S.

Here is just how global the auto industry has become: Chrysler is majority owned by Fiat in Italy. GM is selling a Buick Regal designed in Germany. And, Toyota markets its Tundra pickup as the red, white and blueyist:

“It’s designed in Newport Beach in California and it’s built in the heart of truck country in San Antonio, Texas,” says an ad for the Toyota.

“For someone in Southern Texas, that’s their patriotic truck,” says Sean McAlinden, chief economist at the Center for Automotive Research.

GM now builds more cars outside the U.S. than here at home.

“The U.S. market is not going to be important in the long-run fortunes of General Motors and Ford,” McAlinden says.  

That's not the case for Honda, which is becoming more American.  

“Honda produces more automobiles in this region of the world, which is North America, than any other region of the world,” says Honda spokesperson Ron Lietzke. 

That's more than they make in Japan. Honda even exports 100,000 of those cars designed and built in the U.S. to Asia and elsewhere. 

It was 30 years ago next week that Honda started building cars in the U.S. The 1983 Accord was the first to come off the automakers Ohio line. Toyota and Nissan soon followed Honda to American shores, not only for assembly of cars, but eventually for the design and engineering of cars as well.

So, if you’re wondering what makes a car American, economist Sean McAlinden says it’s complicated.

“Some people would say it’s the ownership of the company," he says. "Others would say it’s the domestic content and let’s say the employment and income that Americans receive from the sale of a car.”

And, if you go by Cars.com’s formula, four of the top five most American cars are made by Toyota and Honda.

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