The Cars.com 2020 American-Made Index
See Also: Cars.com American-Made Index: What About the Least American Cars?
The Cars.com 2020 American-Made Index: Which Cars Are Most American?
By Kelsey Mays
Since 2006, Cars.com’s American-Made Index has given shoppers interested in supporting the U.S. economy a list of the most American-made vehicles, by our judgment of various metrics. After highlighting, at most, 10 models each year for most of its history, we expanded the list to 15 cars in 2019. With rising consumer interest in buying local amid the economic disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve accommodated a long-standing desire among AMI audiences: Now in its 15th year, Cars.com’s 2020 American-Made Index ranks all qualifying cars built in the country, not just the top finishers.
The 2020 index ranks 91 vehicles, counting hybrid and plug-in variants as separate models — more than six times the number ranked in any prior index. Such expansion required a few methodology changes we’ll detail later; as such, the 2020 results cannot be compared to the 2019 American-Made Index.
While cars atop the AMI have considerably higher credentials than those at the bottom, we caution against any temptation to deem the latter group “losers.” That’s because all cars ranked in the 2020 index boast final assembly in the U.S. for at least some portion of sales, something that can’t be said for the nearly 250 nameplates fully imported for the 2020 model year. Assembled as close as Ontario, Canada, and as far as India, such models don’t fulfill criteria met by even the 91st car on the 2020 AMI. Here are the rankings:
1. Ford Ranger (assembled in Wayne, Mich.) | Research | Shop
2. Jeep Cherokee (Belvidere, Ill.) | Research | Shop
3. Tesla Model S (Fremont, Calif.) | Research | Shop
4. Tesla Model 3 (Fremont, Calif.) | Research | Shop
5. Honda Odyssey (Lincoln, Ala.) | Research | Shop
6. Honda Ridgeline (Lincoln, Ala.) | Research | Shop
7. Honda Passport (Lincoln, Ala.) | Research | Shop
8. Chevrolet Corvette (Bowling Green, Ky.) | Research | Shop
9. Tesla Model X (Fremont, Calif.) | Research | Shop
10. Chevrolet Colorado (Wentzville, Mo.) | Research | Shop
11. GMC Canyon (Wentzville, Mo.) | Research | Shop
12. Chevrolet Camaro (Lansing, Mich.) | Research | Shop
13. Honda Pilot (Lincoln, Ala.) | Research | Shop
14. Acura RDX (East Liberty, Ohio) | Research | Shop
15. Honda Accord (Marysville, Ohio) | Research | Shop
16. Toyota Tundra (San Antonio) | Research | Shop
17. Acura MDX (East Liberty, Ohio) | Research | Shop
18. Cadillac CT5 (Lansing, Mich.) | Research | Shop
19. Cadillac XT4 (Kansas City, Kan.) | Research | Shop
20. Ford Expedition, Expedition Max (Louisville, Ky.) | Research | Shop
21. Cadillac XT6 (Spring Hill, Tenn.) | Research | Shop
22. GMC Acadia (Spring Hill, Tenn.) | Research | Shop
23. Cadillac XT5 (Spring Hill, Tenn.) | Research | Shop
24. Lincoln Aviator (Chicago) | Research | Shop
25. Acura TLX (Marysville, Ohio) | Research | Shop
26. Jeep Grand Cherokee (Detroit) | Research | Shop
27. Toyota Highlander (Princeton, Ind.) | Research | Shop
28. Lexus ES (Georgetown, Ky.) | Research | Shop
29. Toyota Avalon (Georgetown, Ky.) | Research | Shop
30. Chevrolet Suburban (Arlington, Texas) | Research | Shop
31. Cadillac Escalade, Escalade ESV (Arlington, Texas) | Research | Shop
32. GMC Yukon, Yukon XL (Arlington, Texas) | Research | Shop
33. Chevrolet Tahoe (Arlington, Texas) | Research | Shop
34. Ford Mustang (Flat Rock, Mich.) | Research | Shop
35. Kia Optima (West Point, Ga.) | Research | Shop
36. Hyundai Sonata (Montgomery, Ala.) | Research | Shop
37. Kia Sorento (West Point, Ga.) | Research | Shop
38. Ford Explorer (Chicago) | Research | Shop
39. Toyota Sienna (Princeton, Ind.) | Research | Shop
40. Jeep Gladiator (Toledo, Ohio) | Research | Shop
41. Toyota Camry (Georgetown, Ky.) | Research | Shop
42. Jeep Wrangler, Wrangler Unlimited (Toledo, Ohio) | Research | Shop
43. Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class (Vance, Ala.) | Research | Shop
44. Ford F-150 (Dearborn, Mich., and Claycomo, Mo.) | Research | Shop
45. Dodge Durango (Detroit) | Research | Shop
46. Hyundai Santa Fe (Montgomery, Ala.) | Research | Shop
47. Ram 1500 (Sterling Heights, Mich.) | Research | Shop
48. Nissan Pathfinder (Smyrna, Tenn.) | Research | Shop
49. Nissan Murano (Canton, Miss.) | Research | Shop
50. Chevrolet Traverse (Lansing, Mich.) | Research | Shop
51. Buick Enclave (Lansing, Mich.) | Research | Shop
52. Honda CR-V Hybrid (Greensburg, Ind.) | Research | Shop
53. Acura ILX (Marysville, Ohio) | Research | Shop
54. Lincoln Navigator, Navigator L (Louisville, Ky.) | Research | Shop
55. Nissan Titan (Canton, Miss.) | Research | Shop
56. Infiniti QX60 (Smyrna, Tenn.) | Research | Shop
57. Nissan Maxima (Smyrna, Tenn.) | Research | Shop
58. Ford Escape hybrid (Louisville, Ky.) | Research | Shop
59. Kia Telluride (West Point, Ga.) | Research | Shop
60. Toyota Highlander Hybrid (Princeton, Ind.) | Research | Shop
61. Toyota Camry Hybrid (Georgetown, Ky.) | Research | Shop
62. Chevrolet Sonic (Lake Orion, Mich.) | Research | Shop
63. Ram 1500 Classic (Warren, Mich.)* | Research | Shop
64. Honda Accord Hybrid (Marysville, Ohio) | Research | Shop
65. Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class (Vance, Ala.) | Research | Shop
66. Chevrolet Malibu (Kansas City, Kan.) | Research | Shop
67. Volkswagen Atlas, Atlas Cross Sport (Chattanooga, Tenn.) | Research | Shop
68. Volkswagen Passat (Chattanooga, Tenn.) | Research | Shop
69. Ford Escape (Louisville, Ky.) | Research | Shop
70. Nissan Altima (Smyrna, Tenn.) | Research | Shop
71. Lincoln Corsair (Louisville, Ky.) | Research | Shop
72. Subaru Ascent (Lafayette, Ind.) | Research | Shop
73. Subaru Legacy (Lafayette, Ind.) | Research | Shop
74. Honda Insight (Greensburg, Ind.) | Research | Shop
75. Subaru Outback (Lafayette, Ind.) | Research | Shop
76. Subaru Impreza (Lafayette, Ind.) | Research | Shop
77. Chevrolet Silverado 1500 (Roanoke, Ind.)* | Research | Shop
78. BMW X5 (Spartanburg, S.C.) | Research | Shop
79. BMW X3 (Spartanburg, S.C.) | Research | Shop
80. Volvo S60 (Ridgeville, S.C.) | Research | Shop
81. Honda CR-V (Greensburg, Ind.; East Liberty, Ohio; and Marysville, Ohio)* | Research | Shop
82. BMW X7 (Spartanburg, S.C.) | Research | Shop
83. Chevrolet Bolt EV (Lake Orion, Mich.) | Research | Shop
84. Toyota Tacoma (San Antonio)* | Research | Shop
85. GMC Sierra 1500 (Roanoke, Ind.)* | Research | Shop
86. Hyundai Elantra sedan (Montgomery, Ala.)* | Research | Shop
87. Toyota Corolla (Blue Springs, Miss.)* | Research | Shop
88. Honda Civic (Greensburg, Ind.)* | Research | Shop
89. Nissan Rogue (Smyrna, Tenn.)* | Research | Shop
90. Mercedes-Benz C-Class (Vance, Ala.)* | Research | Shop
91. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid (Georgetown, Ky.)* | Research | Shop
*Some vehicles also come from one or more assembly plants outside the country.
All cars above are ranked for the 2020 model year, with assembly locations current as of April 2020. Nameplates exclude any full-hybrid and plug-in variants unless specifically noted.
Ranger Tops List; Tesla Makes Top 10
Atop the 2020 American-Made Index is the Ford Ranger, a nameplate resurrected in the U.S. market for the 2019 model year. With increased U.S. parts sourcing for its 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, the Ranger’s U.S. and Canadian parts content reached 70% for the 2020 model year, with majority-U.S. origins for its engine and transmission. It topped the Jeep Cherokee and Tesla Model S to rank as the No. 1 vehicle on the 2020 index.
Speaking of Tesla, this is the first year the California-based automaker has participated. Three Tesla vehicles — the Model S hatchback, Model 3 sedan and Model X SUV — rank in the top 10. Honda, with its luxury Acura brand, and GM also place prominently in the top tier, with seven Honda and six GM models ranking in the top 20.
More Shoppers Want to Buy American, But Info Still Hard to Find
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage global economies, a Cars.com survey of more than 1,000 U.S. licensed drivers in May 2020 found 70% consider a car’s U.S. economic impact a significant or deciding factor in their vehicle purchase; that’s up from 66% who indicated the same in 2019. To put a finer point on it, we asked if motorists’ desire to buy a vehicle assembled in the country had increased or decreased due to the pandemic. Thirty-seven percent said it increased; only 4% said it decreased.
Still, determining such credentials remains a challenge. Of the respondents, 27% indicated they devote substantial time to researching a vehicle’s origins: where it’s built and where its automaker is headquartered. That’s up a significant six percentage points from 2019. Still, most respondents — 55% — indicated they only sometimes track down such information, or that it’s too complicated or not easily available. (Nearly 1 in 5, meanwhile, said they don’t know or care.)
Indeed, consumer knowledge is lacking on basic issues around U.S. automotive manufacturing. Just over half (51%) of the cars bought here are also built here, according to a Cars.com analysis of vehicle identification number data for light-duty retail sales in the first quarter of 2020. But asked to name that percentage, just 28% of respondents landed in the ballpark. Nearly 4 in 10 took a particularly dim view of U.S. automotive manufacturing, indicating 30% or fewer cars bought here are also built here.
When it comes to individual brands, misinformation still abounds. More respondents (37%) think Hyundai is a Japanese or Chinese automaker than the percentage (29%) who correctly identified it as South Korean. The same percentage (26%) said Lexus is American or German as did those who correctly identified Toyota’s luxury brand as Japanese. Only half of all respondents know Tesla is American, and only about a third think the automaker builds the Model S in America. (Tesla assembles all its cars for the U.S. market near San Francisco.)
That’s not due to lack of desire for knowledge. We asked respondents how much it would influence their purchase decision if they had accurate, straightforward information on the economic impact of one car versus another. Eighty percent said it would influence the decision at least a little bit.
Under the AMI Hood
Though 2020’s results aren’t comparable to those from the 2017-19 AMIs’ rankings due to some changes in methodology, the 2020 index ranks cars through the same five primary factors:
- Location of final assembly
- Percentage of U.S. and Canadian parts
- Country of origin for available engines
- Country of origin for available transmissions
- U.S. manufacturing employees relative to the automaker’s footprint
2020 American-Made Index Ranking by Vehicle
In total, the 2020 American-Made Index ranks passenger vehicles from 13 automakers. (Other companies, from Karma Automotive to Workhorse Group, also build cars in the U.S., but none met our minimum ranking criteria, detailed below.) The top model for each automaker is below, with its ranking in parentheses:
- BMW: BMW X5 (78)
- Daimler: Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class (43)
- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles: Jeep Cherokee (2)
- Ford: Ford Ranger (1)
- Geely: Volvo S60 (80)
- GM: Chevrolet Corvette (8)
- Honda: Honda Odyssey (5)
- Hyundai-Kia: Kia Optima (35)
- Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi: Nissan Pathfinder (48)
- Subaru: Subaru Ascent (72)
- Tesla: Tesla Model S (3)
- Toyota: Toyota Tundra (16)
- VW Group: Volkswagen Atlas (67)
In compliance with the 28-year-old American Automobile Labeling Act, automakers must annually report the percentage of U.S. and Canadian parts, by value, for the vast majority of passenger cars. Regulators require such information to appear on the window sticker, or a separate sticker nearby, for nearly every new vehicle sold in the U.S. (we’ll get to the exceptions in the next section), though not every dealer in our experience complies with the requirement.
Because the AALA lumps Canada into the same pool as the U.S., the AMI also factors in the country of origin for a car’s available engines and transmissions, something the AALA also requires automakers to disclose, to ensure the origins for such high-value components are American, not Canadian. A calculation involving parts and labor, the country of origin often — but not always — corresponds to the country where an engine or transmission is assembled.
Beyond drivetrains, the AALA doesn’t emphasize labor costs, particularly when it comes to final assembly. To address that, the AMI factors each automaker’s U.S. manufacturing workforce against the number of cars it produces in the country, with index scores applied on an automaker-wide basis. That’s a change from the 2017-19 index, which factored workforce against U.S. sales — a safeguard going forward to better assess automakers that export heavily from U.S. plants, where sales alone may paint an incomplete picture of domestic footprint. What’s more, earlier iterations of the AMI disqualified vehicles that fell below a certain threshold of U.S. and Canadian parts content. In the transition to ranking all cars assembled in the country, that practice was dropped for 2020.
Besides ranking full hybrids and plug-in vehicles separately from their non-hybrid counterparts under the same nameplate, the AMI also separates variants with different underlying platforms — for example, the Hyundai Elantra sedan versus Elantra GT hatchback or Ram 1500 versus prior-generation Ram 1500 Classic. Those with common underpinnings but different names (think Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban or Honda Pilot and Passport) are also separate AMI vehicles. In short, a given model ranked on the index includes any related offshoots under the same nameplate and platform, but not any full-hybrid or plug-in variants.
Cars are ranked on a 100-point scale, with heavier curb weights functioning as a tiebreaker if necessary. Asterisked models on the list above have some portion of sales imported from foreign assembly plants. In such cases, index values were reduced in proportion to the percentage of imported sales in early 2020, as determined by Cars.com inventory.
Sources for the AMI include data obtained from automakers and Automotive News, as well as our analysis of more than 300,000 vehicles in Cars.com inventory and in-person dealership audits of some 900 new cars.
Why You Still Might Not See Certain Cars
Automakers are not required to submit AALA data for vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating above 8,500 pounds, an echelon that includes full-size vans, heavy-duty pickup trucks and the like. What’s more, manufacturers that build fewer than 1,000 cars in a given model year aren’t required to give percentages of U.S. and Canadian content. Due to insufficient data, the AMI excludes vehicles from either group.
We implement a few other exclusions beyond that. We don’t rank fleet-only vehicles, nor models slated for discontinuation after the current model year without a U.S.-built successor. We also disqualify any vehicles for which we lack confidence in the data, typically because they fall below minimum sales and inventory thresholds or aren’t yet on sale at the time of our research.
As such, the index excludes all heavy-duty vehicles plus certain models built here for 2020 but disqualified for the reasons mentioned above. Among the former group are the Chevrolet Express and Silverado 2500/3500, Ford Super Duty F-Series and Transit, Freightliner and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, GMC Savana and Sierra 2500/3500, and Nissan NV and Titan XD. Among the latter group are hybrid or plug-in-hybrid versions of the Acura MDX, BMW X3, Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Escape and Explorer, Lexus ES, Lincoln Aviator, Toyota Avalon and Volvo S60, plus the Acura NSX, BMW X4 and X6, Cadillac CT4 and CT6, Chevrolet Impala, Ford Police Interceptor Utility, Karma Revero GT, Lincoln Continental, Mercedes-Benz Metris, Nissan Frontier and Leaf, Tesla Model Y and Toyota Sequoia.
The latest iteration of the American-Made Index comes amid the auto industry’s transition toward the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a replacement for the decades-old North American Free Trade Agreement. The AMI calculates certain aspects of each model’s index values relative to the rest of the field for the given model year, so it’s hard to measure the effect of trade agreements by index scores alone. But one indicator of homegrown cars — AALA U.S. and Canadian parts content — shows a steady decline in recent years for cars with otherwise high credentials.
The first iteration of the American-Made Index required 75% or higher U.S. and Canadian content for eligibility, a bar dozens of models met for the index’s 2006 launch. Many — including nameplates like the Chevrolet Express and Silverado 1500, and the Ford Escape, E-Series and Ranger — registered 90% or higher AALA content. But such examples waned over the years. Even amid an increase in overall U.S. light-vehicle production, fewer than 10 cars qualified for eligibility by the 2015 and 2016 AMIs.
In 2017, Cars.com redesigned the index to lower the 75% threshold (something zero of the 91 models indexed for 2020 would meet). Will the USMCA change this? It’s impossible to know just yet. The agreement raises requirements for percentages of U.S., Mexican or Canadian value — a calculation separate from AALA percentages — for tariff-free trade between the three countries. It also introduces new requirements for North American steel and aluminum content. Automakers could technically accomplish both goals with higher value from Mexico or Canada, as opposed to the U.S., but that gets harder with another USMCA provision: that employees making an average of $16 per hour produce a certain percentage of qualifying vehicles. That’s more than double what Mexican auto workers currently make, according to a 2018 Center for Automotive Research study that cites data from Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Informatics.
U.S. regulators expect the pact to add some 76,000 automotive jobs and $34 billion in new automotive investments nationwide over the next five years. (By comparison, vehicle and auto-parts assembly employed roughly 830,000 Americans as of February 2020, per government figures.) The effect on AALA data and AMI values remains to be seen, as the USMCA doesn’t take effect until July 1. Suffice it to say, this year’s redesign sets the table for a consistent look at the impact, if any, of the trade deal in years to come. Stay tuned.
More From Cars.com:
- More News on the American-Made Index
- Cars.com’s 2019 American-Made Index: What’s the Most American Car?
- Cars.com’s 2019 American-Made Index: Which Cars Are Built in the U.S.?
- Cars.com’s 2019 American-Made Index: What About the Least American Cars?
- Cars.com 2018 American-Made Index: What’s the Most American Car?
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