Buying Domestic: Is it Worth It?

One of my favorite stories is about a boy on the beach. After a big storm comes through he begins picking up starfish and throwing them back into the ocean. By and by, an old man walking along the beach strikes up a conversation with the boy. “Son,” he explains, “there’s been a big storm. For a thousand miles in either direction there are starfish washed up on the beach. What difference does it make for you to throw six, ten, or even fifty starfish back into the ocean?” The little boy picked up another starfish. He considered it, looked up at the old man and, as he tossed the starfish into the ocean, said, “It matters to me, and it matters to that one.” The old man smiled and began to help.

This story is meaningful on several levels. First, like the little boy, we should each do what we can to help others and ourselves. Second, like the old man, we need to be willing to change our mindset and see old problems with a fresh outlook. That brings us to today’s question:

Supporting My Countrymen

Dear FedNav,

I need to buy a new car and for the first time since the 1980’s I am considering a domestic make. I feel that purchasing a domestic car will help preserve more jobs at home rather than buying a foreign make. A friend claims that foreign cars assembled in the U.S. create the same number of jobs. What say you?  

Trying to do the right thing in Maryland.

Dear Trying,

While we applaud your patriotism, the first thing you should do is consider the various models that appeal to you and research them. What does J.D. Power say about the car’s quality? How about Consumer Reports? In the most recent J.D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability Study, the GMC Terrain and Yukon won in the categories of “Compact SUV” and “Large SUV;” Buick took home an award for “Large Car” with its LaCrosse; Chevrolet’s Silverado took the “Heavy Duty Pickup,” and GMC’s Sierra the “Light Duty Pickup;” and Chevy took the “Mid-size” categories with the Malibu and Camaro. However, out of 19 categories by J.D. Power and Associates, only seven of them were claimed by U.S. companies as “most dependable.” The full awards list can be seen here.

On top of that, consider this: only one of the 10 finalists for Motor Trend’s Car of the Year was domestic: that was the Ford Mustang. The Volkswagen Golf won the vote, but it should not be ignored that U.S. automobiles have won the award nine times since 2000. All in all, don’t count the domestic cars out. Put a bit of research into it, and if it’s the right car for you, go for it.

Supporting U.S. Jobs

Now, to answer your question regarding which purchase supports the most U.S. jobs, our research led us to the good folks at The Level Field Institute. They measure jobs that take place “beyond the assembly line including engineering design, finance, and more.” In a nutshell, their rating system helps you see how many U.S. workers are employed for every 2,500 cars sold in the U.S. The American Automaker average is 85 American jobs for every 2,500 cars, while the foreign average is 43. Their research concludes that Chrysler (Dodge, Jeep, Ram, GEM Electric Cars) employs, “92 Americans for every 2,500 cars sold,” followed by Ford (Lincoln) and GM (Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, GMC) at 89 and 78, respectively. Among the foreign automakers, Honda leads with 54, followed by Toyota (51), Nissan (38), and Hyundai/Kia at 26. So buying a Ford, GM, or Chrysler product supports a lot more jobs than buying a foreign car, and buying a Ford supports over three times more jobs than buying a Hyundai.

“If you look at an automobile’s entire job footprint, you would see that autos assembled outside the U.S. by companies based here support significantly more U.S. jobs than autos assembled here by companies with most of their engineering, design and headquarters jobs located overseas. For example, a Ford assembled in Mexico this year will likely support approximately 3 times more U.S. jobs as a Mercedes assembled in Alabama. It will also contain more U.S. and Canadian parts than a BMW assembled in South Carolina.” – The Level Field Institute

The Bottom Line

If you want to support U.S. jobs, you should look into buying cars manufactured by U.S.-based corporations. But, in order to take care of yourself, you also need to make sure that those companies have made a high quality vehicle that suits your budget and taste. It is not an obligation to buy a domestically made car, so while it supports U.S. jobs, it is ultimately down to the discretion of the buyer and if it is the right choice for them. However, with the quality of cars and options available in price, style, and use, supporting U.S. jobs is not out of reach.