It Should Come As No Surprise That This Is Once Again the Most "American" Vehicle

The revival of the American auto industry is long under way. Since exiting the recession the big three in Detroit have witnessed incredible success as consumers' appetite for new vehicles has been practically insatiable. Point your finger at whatever you like -- the growing U.S. economy, historically favorable lending rates, or sleek new car styles and interior gadgets and luxuries -- as they're all correct answers as to why U.S. auto sales reached 15.6 million in 2013.

But,underlying the surge in U.S. auto sales is a trend that Cars.com uncovered in a report this week in which it highlighted the top 10 American-made vehicles.


Source: Ford. 

A noticeable shift in the U.S. auto industry
In its report, which focused on automakers whose vehicles were comprised of at least 75% domestic parts and were built in the U.S., Cars.com notes that just 10 vehicles, total, qualified this year. By comparison, this is down from the 30 vehicles that qualified for ranking in 2011. More and more we're seeing automakers turn to vendors outside the United States' borders for cheaper parts in order to cut costs and keep vehicle prices from soaring through the roof.

Of course, not every manufacturer has turned to foreign markets for inexpensive goods. As Cars.com's American-Made Index demonstrates, there are at least 10 vehicles still left that are built with a minimum of 75% made-in-the-USA parts! One, however continues to stand out among the crowd, taking the top honor as the most "American" vehicle in back-to-back years, and in five of the nine years that Cars.com has compiled its data.

Do you have a guess to venture as to which vehicle this might be?

Got your pick?

Did you say the Ford (NYSE: F  ) Mustang or Chevy Corvette? If so you ventured a formidable guess and even managed to pick out one of the top 10 vehicles in the Corvette.

However, if you said the Ford F-150 then you've hit the bull's-eye. 


2015 Ford F-150. Source: Ford.

Keep these biases in mind
Before we dive into what makes the F-150 the most "American" vehicle, we should first tackle two of the primary biases behind Cars.com's report.

On one hand, its data does help provide insight into which automakers are using U.S.-based parts, which, in turn, could provide clues as to what models consumers are more likely to form an emotional attachment to. In theory, by playing up their patriotic ties the automakers behind the 10 vehicles in Cars.com's report could improve the marketability of their cars.

On the other hand, the third criterion in Cars.com's American-Made Index (beyond just being manufactured with 75% domestic-made parts and being assembled in the U.S.) focused on total sales. The Ford F-150 has been a staple among the best-selling vehicles for decades, so it's pretty much a lock to either take the top spot of second place each year based solely on that accord.

Also, we have to take into account that Cars.com's report doesn't take emotional attachment, brand history, model history, or feelings of brand patriotism into question when compiling its results. It's merely focusing on where the parts come from, where it's manufactured, and how many vehicles sold in the U.S. Period! To that end, there are variables which aren't fully in play here based on Cars.com's study.

Why the F-150 is America's truck
Yet, even with the biases inherent in this report it does indeed shed light on America's best-selling vehicle, the Ford F-150.

There are a number of reasons Ford's F-150 continues to sit atop the best-sellers list year in and year out.

Source: Public Affairs, Flickr.

First, as The Wall Street Journal reported this week, Ford, in general, and the F-150 have a rich attachment to the U.S. military. A survey conducted by Polk using registration data from IHS Automotive shows that the F-150 is the most popular vehicle among active, retired, or veteran military personnel. In addition, the ratio at which military personnel purchase the F-150 is higher than with the general population. Current and former military personnel appreciate its ruggedness and dependability, but sales may also benefit from the fact that Ford has a long history of supporting military personnel. Having intricate tie-ins with the U.S. military is one surefire way to be deemed the most American vehicle. 

Secondly, and tying this in with another survey that was released by Polk just a week ago, Ford ranks the highest of all auto manufacturers when it comes to brand loyalty. Per the Polk study, over a 10-year period 64% of consumers who purchased a Ford were likely to purchase another Ford or Ford-brand vehicle as their next vehicle. By comparison, overall brand loyalty as an average dipped to 51%, representing a somewhat overwhelming number of options now present on the market. What this signifies is that Ford is clearly hitting the mark with consumers when it comes to design, value, new technologies, and fuel-efficiency.

3.5-liter EcoBoost engine. Source: Ford.

Third, Ford is innovative and the F-150 has been a regular stepping stone to showcase its new innovations. For example, the all-new 2015 F-150 was unveiled earlier this year with an aluminum body which replaces the traditional steel panels. The switch removes about 700 pounds from the final product allowing for better fuel efficiency -- but, that's just the beginning. Shedding 700 pound allows customers the ability to add options that previously would have been a drag on fuel-efficiency, such as beefing up the payload or tow capacity.

Fourth, Ford has introduced a number of engine options that require less fuel to power the truck, including a 2.7-liter and 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine and a 5.0-liter V8. These options make its previous 6.2-liter V8 look like a gas-guzzler and give consumers the confidence that they're buying a fuel-efficient and cutting edge vehicle that's not going to be obsolete anytime soon.

1950 Ford F-3. Source: gordonrox24, Wikimedia Commons.

Finally, there's a rich and storied history behind the brand and the F-Series. According to Ford, its F-Series had held the top spot as America's best-selling truck for a ridiculous 37 years and has been America's top-selling vehicle for the past 32 years. Consistently remaining in the spotlight as America's top-selling vehicle implies to consumers that it's a dependable, well-made vehicle -- ergo the motto "Built Ford Tough."

Combined, these factors would appear to indicate that F-150 sales are unlikely to slow anytime soon. As long as Ford remains innovative and continues to procure the majority of its F-150 parts from within the U.S., there's a good chance it'll experience a healthy boost in its bottom line from the patriotic connection that many consumers feel toward the brand.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article misstated that the F-150's frame is built using aluminum; aluminum is used for the body panels in the new 2015 model, but the frame is steel.

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Read/Post Comments (9) | Recommend This Article (42)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On July 05, 2014, at 10:35 AM, nomadd22 wrote:

    Another article done by someone who didn't bother to do 2 minutes of research on the subject. The F-150 frame is the one part that's not aluminum and is still steel. The body and rest of the chassis is aluminum.

  • Report this Comment On July 05, 2014, at 11:30 AM, gdub2 wrote:

    The big three have all had problems over the years. I've driven Ford, Chevy and my current pick up is a 2014 Ram HD 3500. Currently GM is having some serious issues with their ignitions. I hope all three companies can work out their problems and keep Americans in some reliable vehicles for the next 10 years. Go USA

  • Report this Comment On July 05, 2014, at 12:54 PM, CrankyOldGuy wrote:

    Brand loyalty is stupid. Within a brand there are winners and losers. Somehow Ford has gotten a "bye" for all the troubles with Powerstroke diesels, even the newest ones, spark plugs on the 3-valve Tritons, you name it. But Ford does a lot of things right. So do Dodge and Chevy/GM.

    it's very apparent once you get away from metropolitan areas that the US brands reign supreme, and not just in trucks. Take a drive thru rural Kansas or Nebraska, Oklahoma or Missouri. 90% American. Take a cross-country trip on the interstates, you can count the number of BMW's, Audi's and Mercedes on one hand across 5 states. Afraid to get further than a quick tow away from the dealers?? No doubt. That Autobahn engineering is for rich suburbanite commuting.

  • Report this Comment On July 05, 2014, at 1:29 PM, justadumcarguy wrote:

    Hahaha....I wonder if the heads at Ford know that the author of this article, Sean Williams, has changed the frame of their truck to aluminum. Now the truck is 2000lbs lighter. Way to go Sean.

  • Report this Comment On July 05, 2014, at 6:29 PM, ReaperHD wrote:

    And Ford didn't take a gumment handout of tax payer money either, got one in my garage and I love it.

  • Report this Comment On July 05, 2014, at 7:27 PM, JamesBailey wrote:

    I owned a Ford once, or should I say, "It once owned me?" It's nickel and dime repair habits were abysmal. It wasn't long that I learned that Ford was an acronym for "Fix Or Repair Daily". At the end of its short life, it became my Rolls-Karnardly. It could roll down one hill, but could hardly make it up the next.

  • Report this Comment On July 05, 2014, at 8:08 PM, cobranut wrote:

    Can't we get some car articles written by someone who knows something about CARS???

    The new F-150 has an aluminum BODY and CAB. The frame is still alloy STEEL for strength and ductility.

  • Report this Comment On July 05, 2014, at 8:14 PM, ecomcon7 wrote:

    in the past forty years, I have only had to buy two Ford trucks. My 66 F100 lasted 17 years and over 300k miles. My 88 F150 4x4 has almost 200k on it and still pull my 8,000 pound travel trailer just fine. Unless you get a "lemon" proper mainenance will make a vehicle last. It is written in my will that "my last ride" will be in a F150!

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2014, at 12:24 AM, McSniperliger wrote:

    My current truck is a 1999 F150 with the 5.4L 2 valve Triton V8. Best mileage with it was 19.2mpg. I am now looking for an OBS F150 for a project.

    I have no interest in newer vehicles my reasons as follows:

    Over complicated to work on.

    Cramped engine compartments.

    Too much technology that can go wrong.

    Emissions.

    Lack of a manual transmission

    My project is going to including a ZF5-42 or M5R2 manual transmission swap with an older Cummins diesel. Should be getting around 25mpg when I am done.

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