Made in the USA: 7 of the best cars made here

Jul 3, 2015 6:03 PM by CBS Moneywatch, Photo: FORD

Along with fireworks and hot dogs, celebrating the Fourth of July may put you in mind to be sure any car you buy is Made in the USA. But in this era of globalization, deciding which vehicles deserve that label is increasingly complicated.

European and Asian companies hire American workers to assemble cars in this country. Honda (HMC) and Toyota (TM) make parts here as well. But those profits still go to foreign companies.

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 better rankings for cars made by General Motors (GM) and Ford (F). Jeep and other Chrysler Group products also rank relatively well even though Chrysler now is part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU).

Associate Professor Frank DuBois of American's Kogod School of Business, an expert on the global supply chain, notes that his index goes beyond the data required by the American Automotive Labeling Act, which includes both U.S.- and Canadian-made components as "American" parts for its ranking. He argues that his calculations give the fullest possible picture of which vehicles most support U.S. jobs and company earnings.

We know shoppers want not only an American-made car but one that looks good, performs well and fits their needs. So, we looked at seven categories of vehicles for models that scored 75 or above (out of a possible 100) and also ranked well in reviews compiled by U.S. News Best Cars.

?Small car: Chevrolet Cruze

The Cruze is one of the first well-built, nicely equipped small cars GM has sold in this country. Reviewers like its comfortable ride, competent handling and roomy trunk for a car its size. Assembled in Lordstown, Ohio, the Cruze offers a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that has an EPA rating of 26 miles per gallon in city driving and 38 on the highway.

The Cruze is the only American brand small car that comes with an optional diesel engine. Test drivers loved the acceleration from the diesel -- and its 46 MPG rating for highway driving (27 in the city).

The Cruze list price ranges from $16,170 to $25,660.

Mid-size sedan: Toyota CamryDespite coming from a Japanese company, Camry ranks first for American content in a compilation done by But in the broader American University index, it ties for ninth even though it has assembly plants in Georgetown, Kentucky, and Lafayette, Indiana. Perhaps in the ranking that matters most, the Camry is the perennial best-selling midsize family sedan in this country.

Reviewers praise the Camry for its quiet, comfortable ride and roomy rear seats. The standard Camry four-cylinder engine is rated for 25 MPG in city driving, 35 on the highway. Test drivers preferred the acceleration in the optional V-6 engine, but the estimated MPG for this engine drops to 21 city, 31 highway.

List prices on the Camry range from $22,970 to $31,370.

Luxury car: Cadillac CTS

The CTS sedan is top-ranked among midsize luxury cars by U.S. News and ties for third in the American University Made in America index.

Reviewers praise the CTS for its excellent handling and powerful brakes. But it also has a roomy and stylish interior. Although the base engine is a four-cylinder (estimated MPG of 20 MPG in city driving, 30 on the highway), more powerful engines are available. The six-cylinder is ranked at 18 MPG city, 29 highway, and a turbocharged six gets 16 city, 25 highway.

List price for the CTS, assembled in Lansing, Michigan, ranges from $45,345 to $69,900.

SUV: Buick Enclave

Like the woman in the Buick TV ad, you may not be able to identify an Enclave. But it ranks among the top three large SUVs at U.S. News and ties for first on the American University Made in America index.

Reviewers like the roomy seating for up to eight passengers and the stylish interior. And if it's cargo you want to haul, the Enclave boasts 115 cubic feet of space with the second and third rows of seats folded down. The Enclave is powered by a V-6, which test drivers say generates sufficient power to go up steep hills. It has an EPA rating of 17 MPG in city driving and 24 on the highway.

List price for the Enclave ranges from $39,050 to $49,305. It's assembled in Delta Township, Michigan.

Minivan: Honda Odyssey

The Odyssey is the top-ranked minivan in the U.S. News survey and is the highest-ranking Honda in the American University Made in America index -- where it's tied for ninth overall. As it has in prior years, the 2015 Odyssey has powerful acceleration and agile handling--especially unusual in such a large vehicle.

The Odyssey's V-6 engine also has high gas mileage ratings for this category -- 19 MPG in city driving and 28 on the highway. Test drivers report that the Odyssey seats, even in the third row, are roomy enough for adult passengers. Standard features in the base Odyssey LX include a rearview camera and front seats with power adjustment.

List prices for the Odyssey, which is assembled in Lincoln, Alabama, range from $28,975 to $44,600.

Pickup: Ford F-150

With a full redesign for 2015, the F-150 dropped from its first-place American University ranking last year but is still tied for third. Test drivers praise the F-150 for its roomy interior and agile handling. The agility comes partly from an aluminum body in the new design that weighs less than the 2014 version. That lighter weight also helps the gas mileage -- rated for 18 MPG in city driving and 25 on the highway.

Reviewers say the F-150 also has an attractive interior and a roomy backseat in the crew-cab version.

Assembled in Kansas City, Missouri, the F-150 has list prices ranging from $25,981 all the way up to $55,070.

Sports car: Chevrolet Corvette

Not only is it first in the hearts of many American sports car fans, the Corvette also ties for first in the Made in American index. Test drivers love the Corvette for its exhilarating acceleration and athletic handling in both the basic Stingray and the Z-06 high-performance version. The Stingray comes with a 6.2-liter V-8 engine that produces 455 horsepower and is rated for 17 MPG in the city, 29 on the highway.

Assembled in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the Corvette also has comfortable seats and stylish interior.

List prices start at $55,000 and range up to $83,000 for the Z-06. The Corvette also made our list of 5 cars that retain their value.


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