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Made in USA: 5 Great American Cars Made Here

We all love the fireworks and patriotic hoopla on the Fourth of July. But if you are thinking about a new car, buying one made in America is an even more patriotic way to celebrate -- helping to keep good manufacturing jobs in this country.

It is hard to know, however, what is really American-made; cars assembled here often have at least some parts made elsewhere. And U.S. companies based in Detroit assemble some models in other countries -- principally Canada and Mexico.

Just in time for America's birthday, the automotive web site cars.com has calculated what are the most American vehicles, based on the percentage of parts made domestically and the assembly location. To qualify for the list, a vehicle must have at least 75% of its parts made in the U.S. But here's the rub: With many factories in this country, overseas automakers score five of the top 10 American-made spots: The Toyota Camry and Honda Accord come in at No. 1 and No. 2. The other foreign-company models on the list are minivans Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna and pickup Toyota Tundra.

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Based on the responses to my story last year, it seems patriotic purchasers want their dollars going to an American company. So we are concentrating here on five models from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. Chrysler might be debatable these days as an American company, since it is majority-controlled by Italian automaker Fiat. But since the U.S. government rescued Chrysler and still owns a sizable stake, we are declaring Chrysler still an American company.

Here are details and prices on the five models on the made-American list from Detroit companies.

Next: Ford Escape

Ford Escape
One of the earliest entries in the compact SUV class, Escape is assembled in Kansas City, Mo. Reviewers like its smooth, six-speed automatic transmission, comfortable seating and generous cargo space. Its mileage ratings of 23 mpg in city driving, 28 highway are among the best in this class.

You can buy an Escape base model for as little as $17,478, according to auto price site TrueCar.com. That's about $4,000 below the dealer invoice price, including a $2,000 rebate. But the list price ranges on up to $33,080 for the best-equipped model.

Next: Ford Focus

Ford Focus
Ford has introduced a totally new Focus as a 2012 model based on its previous design in Europe. The new Focus has been both a hit with reviewers and a sales success. Test drivers have pronounced the new Focus -- assembled in Wayne, Mich. -- fun to drive, and they like the high-tech, comfortable interior.

Gas mileage also is a plus, with a rating of 26 mpg in city driving, 36 on the highway. And like most Ford models, Focus offers the optional SYNC system that lets you give voice commands to play music or make phone calls. The base-model Focus is selling for an average of just $17,040-equal to dealer invoice.

Next: Chevrolet Malibu

Chevrolet Malibu
Chevy puts together the midsize Malibu in Kansas City, Kan. From a bland, rental-fleet model, GM has redesigned the Malibu into a worthy competitor for longtime segment leaders Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Reviewers like its sleek looks and especially its comfortable and stylish interior.

Its economical four-cylinder engine has ratings of 22 mpg city, 33 highway -- which stacks up well against competitors. The LT version Malibu is selling at an average of $19,026, according to TrueCar. That is $3,050 below dealer invoice -- including a $2,000 rebate.

Next: Dodge Ram 1500

Dodge Ram 1500
The quad-cab and crew-cab versions of Chrysler's Dodge Ram are assembled in Warren, Mich. (The single cab is assembled in Mexico.) With its combination of macho looks and comfortable, car-like ride, Ram is a strong pickup contender.

Reviewers like its option of extra lockable storage containers and its strong hauling and towing capacity. Its mileage rating of 14 mpg in the city, 19 highway is respectable for a V-8 pickup. The Ram crew cab V-8 sells for an average of $28,090, according to Edmunds.com. That is $428 below dealer invoice and includes a $3,250 rebate.

Next: Jeep Wrangler

Jeep Wrangler
Evolved from the World War II army vehicle, Chrysler's Jeep Wrangler, assembled in Toledo, Ohio, is still a classic -- especially if off-roading over rocks and through mud is your idea of fun. One note of caution, though: Even reviewers who love its off-road chops warn that it is not a comfortable fit for daily commuting.

You can get the Sport model with its 3.8-liter V-6 engine (15 mpg city, 19 highway) for an average selling price of $21,404. That's about $725 below dealer invoice even without a rebate.

Photos courtesy of the manufacturers
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