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By Larry Edsall
Back to ClassicCars.com Community

What is an "American" car?
By Larry Edsall
The Fourth of July weekend provides a time for reflecting on all things American, including our cars.

Now, I know this is a website devoted to classic cars, and in the good old days there was no debate about which cars were "American" and which ones were foreign. Still, for a few moments, I want to look at the cars being made right now, and which ones are "American."

A few months ago, I was invited to speak to a group of fleet vehicle buyers in Philadelphia, which is about as patriotic a place as we might find in this country. After all, it was in Philadelphia that they wrote and signed the Declaration of Independence.

In the course of my speech, I asked the folks who buy vehicles by the dozens, even the hundreds and in some cases the thousands, if they were encouraged by their companies or the government bodies for which they worked to buy American cars, and how they decided which cars were, indeed, "American."

Basically, I asked, is it more patriotic to buy a vehicle that wears a Detroit brand but is made in Mexico or Canada, or an "import" branded vehicle that's built in Tennessee or Texas, or, for that matter, in Kentucky, Alabama, Indiana or South Carolina?

Wow! Did that set off some fireworks, especially from the local sales managers from Chrysler, Ford and General Motors.

Much of their definition of "American" cars revolves around where the money for those vehicles ends up, regardless of where the various parts are produced or where those vehicles are assembled. At the end of the day, does the money spent on the vehicle go to Japan or Korea or Europe, or does it stay in the United States?

My view has more to do with where those parts are produced and especially where they are assembled into a viable vehicle. If the sheetmetal is stamped here, if major components are produced here, and if the assembly plant is located within our borders, then I'd argue that those vehicles are, indeed, American, because, ultimately, the people who get paid for building them are Americans.

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