Defining American made

Alfred "Pappy" Brunet
July 30, 2009
Joseph Henry Elkins
August 3, 2009

I received several comments about my column on June 22 in which I highlighted the poor quality of products manufactured in foreign countries and sold at discount stores. The article described my experience with a bicycle pump that broke before completing its inaugural tire inflation. My hope is that demand for quality, American-made products will increase.

However, one of our readers reminded me that buying products from American companies doesn’t necessarily mean quality, nor does it mean made in America.

Toyota and Nissan each boast American factories, claiming their vehicles are made in America, but the most “American” Nissan is only 65 percent American made, according to a 2007 USA Today report. The 2007 Toyota Camry Sanora won the prize that year, among foreign brands, as the most American made – 85 percent.

Scoring on the low end were many foreign and some domestic vehicles. The 2007 Buick Rendezvous was only 40 percent American, with the remainder built in Mexico. The Ford Mustang – a symbol of the American west – was only 70 percent built in America. The 2007 Ford Fusion was just half American in the report.

The new Hyundai plant in Alabama assembled just two models, the Santa Fe and Sonata, and those vehicles, when assembled, were only 35 percent American made.

The Dell computer used to write this column was made in China, and even the IBM computer used by our sales manager was predominately made in China.

The confusion over what country manufactures a product is evident and can be best described with this analogy.

You order a computer from an American company by calling a local toll-free number routed to an Indian operator. The computer is built using Taiwanese chips at a Mexican assembly plant. It includes a Korean monitor assembled by Bangladeshi workers in a Singapore plant, transported by Indian truck drivers, hijacked by Indonesians and unloaded by Sicilian longshoremen. The entire package is trucked to you by a Mexican truck driver.

American made doesn’t mean what it did when I was growing up.