Have you ever considered how your car-buying habits affect the thermal-processing industry in this country? The simple answer is that if you are not buying American-made cars, our industry suffers. The more difficult question is: What is an American-made car? This used to be simple when you could say that anything coming from the Big-3 was an American car. In our global economy, however, it is not quite so simple.

A concern is that the car-buying public seems to not notice or care where the car is manufactured. Sure, there will always be a few of the Japanese-car-loving folks who think that nothing made in the U.S. can be any good. Little do they know their beloved “Japanese” car just might be American-made.

An Autobytel survey concludes that 61% of Americans prefer to buy domestic, yet it is difficult to determine what “buying American” really means in the auto world. For instance, the Toyota Camry, built in Kentucky with 80% American content, is more “American” than the Chrysler 300 – built in Canada from 72% American content.

Another survey indicated that up to 83% of car buyers either preferred to buy domestic or it made no difference. It also indicated that while 85% of foreign-car owners are very satisfied with their cars, 80% of American-car owner were very satisfied. This is good news because the quality of American cars is improving and people are not as prejudiced against them as they once were.

So if quality is improved and it makes no difference to over 80% of car buyers where the car is manufactured – and by buying American cars we help the thermal-processing community domestically – how do we determine what is an American car? Did you know the new-car window sticker indicates where the vehicle was built and where the engine and transmission were manufactured? Also indicated is the percentage of domestic content. These numbers give a relative comparison from model to model and manufacturer to manufacturer. Purchasing a vehicle built in the U.S. with the highest domestic content is clearly most supportive of our industry.

Another interesting resource is the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which also reveals the country of manufacture as well as the percentage of domestic content. The VIN is a good resource for purchasing “nearly new” models not equipped with the original window sticker. Buying used domestic vehicles supports domestic parts manufacturers when it is time to repair or replace worn components.

When looking for highest domestic content using a VIN, the first number of a “1” indicates the car is made in the U.S. of more than 75% domestic content. Numbers of “2” or “3” indicate cars made in Canada and Mexico, respectively, from more than 75% domestic content. VINs starting with a “4” or “5” are made in the U.S. of less than 75% or 45% domestic content, respectively. If the VIN does not start with a number, it is not made in North America. Online research will give you additional details on the VIN “code” and will also point you to an auto research group (autoweb.com) that lists all of the domestically manufactured models by manufacturer. Using this list to shop for your next vehicle will “steer” you in the right direction.IH