With the price of gasoline creeping up recently, more prospective buyers perusing the inventories of area car dealerships appear to be more interested in the gas mileage of most models than where the vehicles and their components are made.
“We do get a small percentage of customers who do ask about where it was made, or check the percentages on the window stickers that show where it was produced,” said Greg Dunn, general manager of Dunn Chevy Buick in Oregon. “There is a faction of people that check that pretty religiously.”
One man – who Dunn described as a “staunch” member of the United Auto Workers – was disappointed to learn much of his Chevy Traverse came from other countries.
“He wasn’t real happy about that,” Dunn said.
Overall, concern on the part of buyers about the country of origin was more of a hot button issue a year or two ago, he added, when news of the bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler was still fresh on their minds.
Still, a promotional campaign for the fuel-efficient Chevy Cruze focuses on it being a car manufactured in Ohio for the most part.
“Our Chevy commercials have talked about the Ohio-built Cruze,” Dunn said.
At Baumann Auto Group Genoa, the origin of a vehicle or its components “is not a real common question,” says Jeff Brown, general manager.
“Right now with most customers it’s more about fuel economy and safety,” he said. “People are starting to accept a little more of the global side of things. Especially when Ford has so many things coming from overseas. We were discussing that recently. Our vehicles change from year to year – even the same models - as to what content comes from the U.S.
“Every model we offer, from Ford to the Chevy side, varies from year to year. The Ford Escape, for example, in 2009 and 2011 had a percentage as high as 65 percent or so made in the U.S. In 2010 it had one of the highest ratings at 90 percent or so. Then it fell back off. Now the Malibu is in the top 10 as far as content.”
Brown pointed to an agreement reached by Ford and the United Auto Workers late last year in which the company said it would add 12,000 hourly jobs in its U.S. manufacturing facilities by 2015, including in-sourcing from Mexico, China and Japan, as an example of how the auto industry is changing.
“The good news is the Fusion is coming to Flat Rock (Michigan),” he said.
Congress passed the American Automobile Labeling Act (AALA) to help consumers by providing information about the country of origin of vehicles and their parts. The law was enacted in October 1992 and went into effect two years later.
In a 1998 survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of 646 people who had bought or leased new vehicles during the prior 6 months or were planning to buy or lease in the next three months, about 23 percent were aware of the AALA label but only 5 percent were influenced by the label.
At Mathews Ford in Oregon, many prospective customers are attracted by the dealership being a UAW shop, says Brian Shephard, sales manager.
“They come here because they want to support the union and buy a union-made vehicle,” he said, adding there aren’t a lot of purchase decisions made based primarily on the AALA sticker.
The Ford Focus and Fiesta models are popular with buyers looking for good gas mileage, Shephard said.