"Buy American" is a difficult position to explain nowadays, because there is no such thing as a purely American made car. Our "domestic" automotive companies are all multinational behemoths, with divisions, plants, suppliers, customers and shareholders scattered over the globe. For example...
- Is a Chevrolet Equinox an "American" car? The engine is made in China, and final assembly is in Canada by CAW organized labor.
- Is a Ford Fusion "American"? It is assembled in Mexico by non-UAW workers, and because it is a platform-mate of the Mazda6, probably has significant Asian parts content.
- Is a Mazda6 "American"? It is assembled in Flat Rock, MI alongside the Mustang from a mix if domestic and Asian parts. Since it is built by the UAW, UAW members are allowed to buy them. But 2/3 of the profit goes to Japan.
- A Saab is built from European sourced parts by Swedish unionized labor. Profit goes to GM. OK to buy, and still feel patriotic?
- Chrysler is now owned by Daimler, if you take home a 300, are you buying American or German?
I had convinced myself that the key was to follow the profits. For example, since GM is headquartered in Detroit, has (mostly) American shareholders, and pays taxes in the U.S., buying GM was the patriotic choice. The American companies support our communities directly. But then again, where does Honda buy all those domestically sourced parts from?
The domestic carmakers want the benefits of my patriotism without any sort of return commitment. A company can't wrap itself in the flag and shout "Buy American!", while at the same time offshoring as much business as possible, laying off blue and white collar workers. Ford closes plants in the U.S., while increasing capacity in Mexico. All of the big three lean on their suppliers to move production to China, to cut costs, or risk losing business. Or they refuse to pay fair prices, and drive their American suppliers into bankruptcy.
Who do they expect to buy their products if they help to decimate their customer base, the lower middle and middle middle class? Who will remain committed to their product?
As the global trend continues, the picture will get even more fuzzy. You will walk into your Chevy dealership, and be offered a compact car designed in Korea by GM Daewoo, built in Canada, from mostly Korean and Chinese parts. Or you may walk into a Lincoln dealership and buy a luxury car based on a Volvo platform, with a Japanese sourced engine, assembled in the US. Eventually, the new Chrysler you are interested in may be assembled in China from German and Chinese parts.
I am still rooting for Ford and GM over the foreign-headquartered competition. So much of Michigan's economy relies on their success, it is suicidal for me not to. But "Buy American" is becoming a harder case to make to anyone who lives outside the industrial midwest.