Posts Tagged ‘Cars.com’

Today Consumer Reports released their annual rankings of automaker reliability.  Now, you would think that automaker reliability may change slightly from year to year but, according to CR, you’d be wrong.  This year, Ford dropped from 10th to 20th in reliability while Lexus moved up seven spots, Mazda moved up eight, and Jeep moved up seven.  Porche, on the other hand, fell 25 spots, from second to 27th!

The survey is sent out to the magazine’s 1.3 million subscribers each year and results are based on survey responses regarding the 2002 to 2011 model years.  There are (at least) two major problems with this.  The first is that Consumer Reports subscribers may not accurately represent the population.  The second is that all makes and models are not equally represented.  Chrysler, for example, rose 12 spots to 15th on the basis of only two models that were owned by survey respondents.  The full list, courtesy of cars.com, is below, with last year’s rankings in parentheses:

1. Scion (1)
2. Lexus (8)
3. Acura (3)
4. Mazda (12)
5. Honda (4)
6. Toyota (6)
7. Infiniti (5)
8. Subaru (7)
9. Nissan (14)
10. Volvo (8)
11. Hyundai (11)
12. Kia (13)
13. Jeep (20)
14. Lincoln (15)
15. Chrysler (27)
16. Volkswagen (16)
17. Chevrolet (17)
18. Mercedes-Benz (22)
19. BMW (23)
20. Ford (10)
21. Dodge (24)
22. GMC (21)
23. Mini (25)
24. Buick (18)
25. Cadillac (19)
26. Audi (26)
27. Porsche (2)
28. Jaguar (not rated)

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The fact that two of the three major American car companies have filed for bankruptcy seems to have renewed calls for consumers to “buy American” when they shop for a new car.  Of course, what makes a car “American,” “German,” or “Japanese” these days is not as clear as it was thirty years ago, when most American cars were made in the U.S. by U.S. companies using U.S. parts.  Today there is a global network of owners, suppliers, and factories that have muddied the picture considerably.  What is more American: a Honda Accord made in Ohio, a Nissan Altima made in Tennessee, a Chevy Malibu made in Kansas, or a Ford Fusion made in Mexico?

Every year Cars.com tries to answer this question with their American-Made Index.  This year’s list is below:

1. Toyota Camry** Georgetown, Ky.;
Lafayette, Ind.
2. Ford F-150 Dearborn, Mich.;
Claycomo, Mo.
3. Chevrolet Malibu*** Kansas City, Kan. 3
4. Honda Odyssey Lincoln, Ala. 7
5. Chevrolet Silverado 1500*** Fort Wayne, Ind. 8
6. Toyota Sienna Princeton, Ind. 6
7. Toyota Tundra San Antonio 5
8. GMC Sierra 1500*** Fort Wayne, Ind.
9. Ford Taurus Chicago
10. Toyota Venza Georgetown, Ky.

This list is controversial because it is not simply a measure of a car’s parts content.  For example, the Ford Taurus has the highest domestic parts content at 90%.  The list above also factors in a model’s sales, so the Toyota Camry does not have the highest domestic parts content but it was the best selling car in the country last year.  Combined with its domestic parts content (which must have increased since last year when it didn’t make the list at all), the 436,617 Americans who purchased the Camry in 2008 made it number one on this list (for comparison, the best-selling “American” car in 2008 was the Chevy Impala, with 265,840 sales, though it didn’t make this list).

Others have criticized the Cars.com list because it looks at domestic parts content but not at the money paid to the designers, engineers, technicians, etc. who are crucial in building a modern car.  Some also make the argument that it is better to buy an “American” car built in Canada or Mexico than a “Japanese” car built in the U.S. because that money still goes back into the American pockets of stockholders and retirees.  I suppose that this casts a Marxist shadow over the question of “American” versus “Foreign” automakers – do you want to support the workers who are trying to feed their families or the owners who are trying to make the largest possible profits (though, of course, nobody is making much profit right now) through outsourcing?

There are no simple answers to these questions, but they can be great for starting a heated classroom debate about globalization.

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