Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Irrelevance of "Buy American Only"

2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Photo courtesy General Motors

I remember when I was a kid there was a huge push in the United States against Japanese vehicles. My family formerly owned a big Ford LTD station wagon that was a hunk of junk, so there was little love for domestic cars in our household. In fact all but one car we owned were Japanese and were super reliable. I would watch the news at night and see videos of rallies at different domestic car dealerships across the country where people literally bashed in Toyota Camrys and Honda Civics with baseball bats and monster trucks as a way of taking out their frustration for what American automakers claimed was "unfair business practices." At the time I was puzzled about why people were so outraged.

In the end it has been proven that Japanese automakers weren't engaging in unscrupulous business practices and instead were doing some rather innovative things. Still, American automakers leaned heavily on people's patriotic sensibilities, saying that buying American-made automobiles was the patriotic thing to do.

A lot has changed since then, although some people haven't gotten the memo that the term "buy American" is pretty much irrelevant at this point. The fact is that many "foreign" cars are manufactured in America and there are even some "American" cars that are manufactured elsewhere.

2013 Honda Pilot. Photo courtesy American Honda Motor Co.

Case in point: the Honda Pilot and Ridgeline. Both are large vehicles made just for the North American market, and both are manufactured at Honda's factory located in Lincoln, Alabama. German automaker BMW has a plant in South Carolina while its rival Mercedes-Benz has a large plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I could go on, but hopefully you get the point. These factories are staffed by American workers on American soil. Some of the vehicles manufactured in them have been designed and engineered by Americans, which is a smart move considering Americans know pretty well what appeals to Americans.

Conversely, there are many examples of "American" cars that are made outside of this country. The Chevrolet Camaro is a prime example of this, with the current generation being manufactured in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. I should note that General Motors has announced the next generation of the pony car will be made in Michigan once more. Still, there are other "American" cars manufactured elsewhere (like the new Chevrolet SS, which will be made in Australia). 

So the next time someone tries to guilt you into "buying American" to show your patriotism, remember that they are just ill-informed about the current automotive manufacturing business.