Buy American, Or Buy Union?

Old habits die hard. When people talk about the U.S. auto industry, they often think it still means G.M., Ford and Chrysler. In fact, more than a dozen automobile manufacturers make cars in the United States. The “big three” are different not because they make automobiles here, but because their work forces are unionized. Thus, when people talk about buying American cars, what they really mean, much of the time, is buying union-made products.

The difference is illustrated by the difference between two lists. The United Auto Workers produced this list of ten of the most union-made vehicles. No surprises here:

1 ) Cadillac CTS
2 ) Chevrolet Sonic
3 ) Ford F-150
4 ) Jeep Wrangler
5 ) Chevrolet Volt
6 ) Buick LaCrosse
7 ) Chrysler 200
8 ) Ram 1500
10 ) Ford Mustang

That’s a classic list of what we think of as American-made cars. In fact, though, many of the most American-made cars are “foreign.” The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration publishes a list that shows the percentage of each automobile model that is made in America. This is the NHTSA’s list of the ten vehicles that are most “made in the USA.”

1 ) Ford Expedition
2 ) Chevrolet Express
3 ) Toyota Avalon
4 ) Buick Enclave
5 ) Honda Odyssey
6 ) Honda Crosstour
7 ) Dodge Avenger
8 ) Ford F-150
9 ) Toyota Camry
10 ) Toyota Sienna

There are many other “foreign” models that are made in America. One of many examples: my wife’s BMW X5 was made in South Carolina, by non-union labor. If Detroit had a small fraction of the auto worker jobs that are now located in Ohio, Tennessee, South Carolina and other states, it wouldn’t be bankrupt. What unions do better than anything else is kill jobs. Which is why the United Auto Workers now represent something like three times as many retirees and widows as actual auto workers.