Which car company is more “American”? A Big Three car maker which off-shores jobs and lays off American workers, or a foreign transplant that is ramping up production and creating jobs in the U.S.? That’s the famous question Robert Reich asked back in 1990 in a classic Harvard Business Review article.
The Wall Street Journal’s Joseph White updates Reich and asks “What Really Makes an American Car”?
Could there be a more American vehicle than a “Jeep Patriot?” Nothing on four wheels says American more proudly than Jeep, the rugged brand that helped America win World War II, and has ferried millions into our wild, Western spaces since.
The Treasury has pumped billions into two of the three American car makers with head offices in and around Detroit, hoping to avoid a collapse of what industry and political leaders call the U.S. auto industry. There’s lots of talk about the government supporting American efforts to develop electric cars and batteries, and some federal programs already established to do this …
Once you put down the flags and shut off all the television ads with their Heartland, apple-pie America imagery, the truth of the car business is that it transcends national boundaries. A car or truck sold by a “Detroit” auto maker such as GM, Ford or Chrysler could be less American — as defined by the government’s standards for “domestic content” — than a car sold by Toyota, Honda or Nissan — all of which have substantial assembly and components operations in the U.S.