Is there a more iconic American car than the Chevy Camaro? It’s a bedrock example of small town culture, the perennial Mustang competitor in which aimless high schoolers tool past the Dairy Queen. Generations of U.S. youth got their first kisses in a Camaro (though probably not in the back seat—it’s too small).
Well, did you know, gulp, that the Camaro has been built in Canada since 1993? First in Ste. Therese, Quebec, and then in Oshawa, Ontario? Is nothing sacred?
The good news for Camaro lovers is that the brand-new sixth generation is rolling off an assembly line in...envelope, please… Lansing, Michigan. So it’s finally bleeding red, white and blue again.
We’ve all had the experience of turning over a Statue of Liberty souvenir and seeing that it was made in China. Somehow those Camaros have snuck across our northern border clutching fake citizenship papers. Look at the raise-the-flag language in this ad for Camaro accessories from American Car Craft:
Your Chevy Camaro is a rolling piece of American-made muscle. Make sure you only accessorize with the highest-quality handcrafted parts made right here in the USA.
“Canadian-made" muscle just doesn’t sound right, I guess. Autobytel wants to celebrate the flag-draped muscle car by asking, “Is there a better way to celebrate America's birthday than by celebrating that most American of car segments?”
At the same time, Tesla’s Elon Musk just said that his company will be producing some of its affordable Model 3s in China. Sure, Tesla is hoping China will become its biggest market, and it makes financial sense that cars are produced locally for consumption there. Tesla is going global, like everyone else, but I’m guessing a lot of Chinese consumers want that “made in California” cachet.
It’s gotten very confusing, and perhaps we should stop thinking about “American,” “Japanese” and “German” cars, since that VW might be made in Chattanooga, and that Ford in Mexico.
And guess what, a new report says that Japanese automakers are directly or indirectly responsible for 1.5 million U.S. jobs. “The Japanese-brand automotive companies are among the largest job creators in the United States,” said Dr. Thomas J. Prusa of Rutgers, who wrote the report for the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA). Just think of all those suppliers and dealers, plus the actual folks on the American assembly lines. The auto industry as a whole "impacts" 7.25 million U.S. jobs, a new report from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers says.
Even saying a car is “made” anywhere is kind of misleading, since these days factories are where whole sub-assemblies (from all over the world) are put together like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Gone is Henry Ford’s model of vertical integration, when logs and iron ore went in one end and finished cars came out the other. When the Japanese tsunami hit, American icons like Chevy pickups were affected.
“Many of the old distinctions have fallen away over the years, as American-based companies bought European companies, while Asian companies opened plants in the U.S. and an Indian automaker bought a British automaker,” said Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Auto Alliance. Don’t forget the Chinese company that bought the Swedish one, or the Italians who now control Chrysler.
“Automakers are building their vehicles wherever they sell them around the globe,” Bergquist said. Darn right, and they’d be crazy not to. Cars are built to high standards in unlikely places like Turkey and Finland.
Let’s stop worrying about where cars were made, and concentrate on how well they were made. Consumer Reports’ recent decision to stop recommending the Tesla Model S because of dependability issues is a sobering reminder of the fact that quality matters, no matter how many glitzy accolades a company earns (including, in Tesla’s case, from Consumer Reports itself).
Here, on video, is a tour of the Camaro plant in 2011. Those are Canadians making those cars. In Canada: