While celebrating American independence this Fourth of July, you may wish you could buy a car made in the U.S.A. and free of foreign influences. But in this era of globalization, deciding which cars deserve the Made in America label is trickier than ever.
The traditional approach was scored according to where a car was assembled and where the parts were made. But now, German and Japanese car companies hire American workers to assemble their vehicles. And Honda (HMC) and Toyota (TM) even make parts here. But those profits still go home to headquarters in other countries.
An index calculated by an American University professor takes all those factors into account -- not only parts and assembly but where the parent company is based and where research and development is done. The result is higher rankings especially for cars made by General Motors (GM). Ford Motor (F) also ranks well, as does Chrysler Group, now part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU) .
Frank DuBois of American's Kogod School of Business, an expert on the global supply chain, notes that his Made in America Auto Index goes beyond the data required by the American Automotive Labeling Act, which includes both U.S. and Canadian manufacture as "American" parts for its ranking.
"This index is an alternative ranking system that provides consumers with the most accurate reflection of the true country of origin of a car and the impact of its purchase on the U.S. economy," he said. "That helps consumers make sense of automakers' marketing claims."
Just being an American-made car isn't enough for many shoppers. They also want one that looks good, performs well and fits their needs. So we looked at cars that scored 75 or above (out of a possible 100) in the Kogod Made in America index -- and also ranked well in reviews compiled by U.S. News Best Cars.
Read on for a closer look at seven of the vehicles with the combined best ratings, ranked in order of their score on the American-made index.
The best-selling pickup in America also ranks No. 2 on the Made in America index and tops reviewers' ratings for pickups. (Tied for first on the index were three SUVs made by GM from the same platform: the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia).
Test drivers praised the F-150 for its choice of powerful engines, excellent handling for a truck and spacious cab. The 3.5 liter, six-cylinder engine that's new in the 2017 model has EPA mileage ratings of 18 MPG in city driving and 25 on the highway. List price for the F-150 starts at $27,110 but ranges up to $62,310 with a wide choice of cabs as well as engines.
The Corvette ranks in reviewers' top five among luxury sports cars, third on the Made in America index and first in the hearts of American loyalists. "The Corvette proudly waves the flag as America's premium sports car," says Kelley Blue Book.
And that review adds: "At around $56,000, it's the rare performance car that's a value." That price is for the base Stingray model, while even higher-performance versions can range up to $83,450. Corvette buyers likely aren't worrying too much about fuel economy, but for the record: the V-8 engine with automatic transmission is rated for 15 MPG city, 26 highway.
The Expedition ranks fifth on the Made in America index and second in reviewers' ratings of large SUVs (behind Chevrolet Tahoe, which comes in lower in the homemade ranking). Test drivers praise the Expedition for its spacious three rows of seating and its smooth ride. They also like its powerful turbocharged V-6 engine rated for 15 MPG in city driving, 21 on the highway.
Expedition list prices range from $47,126 to $67,816.
The totally redesigned 2017 CR-V tops reviewers' ratings of compact SUVs and ties for ninth on the Made in America list. Kelley Blue Book praises it for its "practicality, efficiency, refinement and value." The practicality comes in with its gas mileage ratings: 28 MPG in the city, 34 on the highway.
List prices for the CR-V run from $24,045 to $33,795.
One of the best-selling cars in America, Camry also tops U.S. News reviewer ratings for midsize sedans. In the Made in America ratings, it ties for ninth.
Test drivers like its spacious back seat, comfortable ride and high predicted reliability. The four-cylinder base engine is rated for 24 MPG in the city and 33 on the highway. Camry list prices run from $23,070 to $31,370.
The Camaro ties with its archrival, the Ford Mustang, for second place in reviewers' ratings of sports cars. It comes in just ahead of the Mustang at 11th in the Made in America index.
This modern muscle car is praised for better handling than its rivals. It also has good fuel economy for the class, with its six-cylinder engine rated at 22 MPG city, 31 highway. List prices range from $25,905 way up to $67,140 for the most powerful, tricked-out version.
The Avalon ranks tops in reviewers' ratings of large sedans and comes in 12th in the Made in America rankings.
Avalon garners praise for its spacious well-designed cabin, its comfortable ride and the smooth power of its engine. That V-6 is rated 21 MPG in city driving, 30 on the highway. Avalon list prices run from $33,300 to $41,100.