Hyundai: More American Than Ford, GM and Chrysler?

2011 Hyundai Sonata

Sonata: Built in the U.S.A.

Nothing is more American than the story of Henry Ford tinkering in a Detroit garage and then starting one of the most successful and innovative car brands in history.

The Ford Mustang may be the most iconic American car ever produced.

Chevrolet branded itself as the “Heartbeat of America.”

But the most American automotive brand, as of next year, just might be Hyundai. According to CNN Money, in 2011 80 percent of the vehicles that Hyundai sells in the United States will be built here as well, giving the automaker top spot in the “Made in the U.S.A.” rankings.

Does that really make the Korean company any more American than its Detroit counterparts? Not really.

Hyundai Alabama plant openingOf course, when talking percentages, there’s always another side to the story. CNN points out that Hyundai’s 80 percent would equal about 400,000 U.S.-built vehicles. If GM built just 66 percent of the vehicles it sold here in the states in 2009, that number would be 1.2 million vehicles, triple Hyundai’s projected U.S. output for next year.

Then there’s the sticky condition of “final assembly.” If final assembly on the Ford Fusion happens in Mexico, but the majority of its parts were made in the U.S., and the Hyundai Elantra is assembled in the U.S. with parts made in South Korea, which company can claim to be more American?

In my opinion it’s all just a game of public relations, branding, and the molding of consumer perception. Hyundai isn’t building cars in this country because it wants to become “American.” The choice to build here is based strictly on business. Building cars here is cheaper than building them in Korea and then shipping here. While that means more Americans have family-wage jobs, which is a nice side effect, it also means bigger profit margins, quicker response to changing market conditions, and, ultimately, more money coming in to corporate headquarters.

Which, no matter what spin you put on it, is located in South Korea.

Does the country a car is built in have any impact on your decision to buy it?

-tgriffith

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