And the Top 10 Most American-Made Cars Are...

By: Bridget Clerkin August 21, 2017
An American flag hangs over Tesla's Northern Nevada "gigafactory." The building helped to make Tesla the only large carmaker which made 100% of its vehicles in the U.S. in 2016.
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Tesla may be named after a Croatian and run by a South African, but the automaker’s electric cars are 100% American.

In fact, the California-based company was the only carmaker whose products were entirely made in the U.S.A. last year, according to a new report from Time.

The publication compiled a list of auto manufacturers ranked by domestic production, based on how many of their 2016 models were assembled in America—and none of them had marks as high as Tesla’s.

  • Jeep was the second-most-American brand, with 89% of its popular cars produced at home. The only model made outside U.S. borders in 2016 was the Renegade, according to the report.
  • Cadillac came in 3rd, with 86% U.S.-based production extending to all of its 2016 models aside from the XTS.
  • Dodge was 4th, with the American assembly of everything from the Challenger to the Ram to the Durango making up 83% of its domestic activity—although the company went elsewhere to put together its Grand Caravan and Journey.
  • In 5th was GMC, which assembled 80% of its 2016 inventory in America, including the Yukon, Acadia, and Sierra, but not the Terrain.
  • The first foreign company appearing on the list is Honda’s luxury marque, Acura, which ranked 6th, producing 71% of its 2016 cars in the U.S., including every model but the RLX and RLX Sport Hybrid.
  • Another American company takes spot number 7, with Chevrolet counting 70% of its inventory assembled stateside last year, but making 5 different models—the Spark EV; Trax; Caprice; SS; and Spark—in different locales.
  • Ford takes the 8th spot on the list, with domestic production accounting for 64%, but notably, its top sellers, including the F150 and Mustang, remained made in America last year.
  • Toyota is 9th, representing the second spot going to a foreign country in the top 10. The Japanese giant built 11 of its 2016 models in America—including the Camry, Highlander, and Corolla, among others—making up for 61% of its U.S.-based production.
  • Rounding out the list is Buick, which built 60% of its cars at home, including every 2016 model other than the Regal and Encore.

All told, 65% of the 17.5 million vehicles purchased in the United States in 2015 were also assembled in America, according to the Time report.

And the industry has been on the receiving end of some even rosier numbers lately.

Building Steam

Upgrades at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant are part of a $1.2 billion investment the company is making in U.S. manufacturing.

Last year marked a momentous occasion for carmakers: It was the first time in decades that more manufacturing jobs returned to the United States than left it, according to the Reshoring Initiative, a company dedicated to bringing more jobs to American soil.

All told, the sector saw a net gain of 25,000 jobs in 2016—a loss of 50,000 compared against an addition of 77,000 positions. Of that total, the automotive industry brought the most jobs back, the numbers show.

Part of the resurgence can be contributed to the changing compositions of our vehicles, with many of the returning jobs focused in the development and production of electronics.

Ford alone recently announced it would spend $1.2 billion across three of its Michigan facilities by expanding upon production of not only cars but also data storage and applications, with a special focus on—and $700 million investment in—upgrading its electric vehicle program.

General Motors also contributed to the trend, announcing this January that it would add or retain 7,000 jobs stateside and update its U.S. facilities to the tune of $1 billion in 2017.

Other economic factors at play include the recent uptick in Chinese wages and labor costs, which has brought the expense of making goods in the Asian nation to just 4% lower than doing so in America once productivity is factored in, according to reports by CNN. Nearly 60% of all jobs that returned to the United States between 2010 and 2016 came from China, according to the Reshoring Initiative report.

But those gains are perilously balanced against another rising trend; one with the power of upending the inner-workings of the entire industry.

Domo Arigato

There’s a new type of worker on the rise throughout the continent.

The first quarter of 2017 alone saw a 32% increase in the number of robots purchased by North American companies, according to a report by the Robotic Industries Association.

The surge was especially robust in the auto industry, which increased its robot orders by 53% compared to the first quarter of 2016. And other sectors closely tied to auto production—including metalworks, semiconductor manufacturing, and arc welding—also all shot up dramatically, at 54%, 22%, and 102% respectively, according to the report.

But sharing the factory floor with mechanical peers is bad for America’s human employees. For each robot put to use at a manufacturing plant, 6.2 jobs are lost, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which used numbers spanning from 1990 to 2007.

With such tidings of cost efficiency, the machines will likely be given a warm welcome from factory owners. But their popularity may prove to be what ultimately keeps more jobs in the U.S. at all.

Several high-profile companies have recently declared that they would keep their American address—thanks to the savings they could recoup through highly-automated facilities. Indiana-based furnace producer Carrier, subject of much fanfare after declaring they would stay stateside last year thanks to an intervention by President Donald Trump, admitted shortly after the announcement that most of the money reinvested in their American space would be spent on automation

Athletic shoe company Adidas also debuted a new factory recently in Georgia, marking the opening of the company’s first U.S.-based plant. But thanks to robotic workers there, the site only employs 160 people.

Still, there may be one area in this new economy where domestic jobs can be grown: someone will still have to build all those new machines.

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