Detroit News – F-150 Un-American?

Detroit News Online

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Survey: Camry more American than F-150

Alisa Priddle / The Detroit News

The Toyota Camry is more American than the Ford F-150, at least according to Cars.com’s annual American-Made Index.

Toyota Camry HybridThe findings further muddy the buy American debate that rages across the country.

Toyota Motor Corp. also is the most American car company, according to the rankings of the index in terms of U.S. content in its cars and trucks.

The findings are based on where each vehicle is built, its popularity based on sales volume and the percentage of the parts made in the U.S. based on the cost or value of those parts.

This year, the Camry (not counting the hybrid or the Solara) dethroned the F-150 which had been a five-time winner. The Ford truck came in at No. 2.

Toyota had the most individual models on the list with four, including the Sienna minivan in the sixth spot, followed by the Tundra full-size pickup, and the new Venza crossover at No. 10.

Detroit’s Big Three automakers collectively have five vehicles in the top 10 spots, which is their lowest showing since Cars.com started the index in 2006 and was conducted twice a year initially.

“This year was unique for our index, to say the least,” said Patrick Olsen, editor of Cars.com. “The difficult sales environment and changes in cars’ domestic-parts content — both important factors in our index’s equation — played a huge role in how the rankings changed from last year.”

The results likely won’t go over well in Detroit, said analyst Joe Phillippi of AutoTrends Consulting Inc. in Short Hills, N.J., but the more important point is that the vehicles and many of their parts are made in the U.S. and “we need all the payroll generation we can get.”

To its credit, Toyota has maintained its headcount in the U.S., Phillippi said. “There have not been wholesale firings and mass layoffs and they continue to employ a lot of people even in a downturn and their game plan is to continue to employ more.”

General Motors Corp. results were impacted because the methodology used excludes models slated to be discontinued that do not have a clear successor. That wipes out the Pontiac G6, for example, which has scored well in the past, but has fallen victim to GM downsizing. Also absent from the list this year is the Chevrolet Cobalt, which has fewer domestic parts and seen its sales fall off because it, too, is being discontinued. It will be replaced by the all-new Chevrolet Cruze next year.

GM retains three vehicles in the top 10 with the Chevrolet Malibu taking the third spot and the Chevrolet Silverado (5th) and GMC Sierra 1500 pickup (8th).

The Ford Taurus had the most domestic parts at 90 percent but landed 9th on the list, largely because the new Taurus is selling about 2,000 units a month compared with about 25,000 Camrys a month.

Chrysler Group LLC has no vehicles in the top 10. The company’s high-volume minivan is made in Canada.

Phillippi said while the results may surprise some consumers, it likely will have little impact on buying decisions and he doubts many shoppers research domestic content. “These days, price and incentives are at the top of the list given the squeeze on peoples’ budgets.”

The index provides some justification for consumers who have been loyal to imports, Phillippi said.

Jim Hall, analyst with 2953 Analytics in Birmingham, called the claims “spurious” and questioned the math given that the index uses a parts count but does not go deeper and calculate the number of labor hours to make each part — a figure that varies greatly with an engine being very labor-intensive, for example.

In terms of validity, “it’s like Michael Jackson saying he’s the King of Pop,” Hall said of the self-proclamation of the superstar and the Web site in its findings.

apriddle@detnews.com (313) 222 – 2504

Find this article at:
http://www.detnews.com/article/20090704/AUTO01/907040376/Survey–Camry-more-American-than-F-150

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