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Buy American

Anyone Think That Way?

Larry Jewett - January 18, 2013 10:00 AM

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The changes in the automotive landscapes that happened many decades ago have conditioned many of us to accept when things are different than we hoped.

Growing up, it was highly unusual to see a foreign car on the road and it was usually European and a sign of affluence. Then, the Asian models started arriving and they were different enough to be noticed. Soon, they were everywhere with foreign companies building their cars in Tennessee and Ohio and South Carolina.

Soon, the automotive landscape developed into a melting pot to the point where it became nearly impossible to tell the cars apart. I guess that’s why they paint them different colors.

The results of a recent study were made known by www.cargurus.com. The site is filled with plenty of information regarding car values and aspects of popular cars, domestic and foreign. This study, though, showed the tendencies of prospective car buyers. That part caught our eye.

In a nutshell, www.cargurus.com analyzed millions of sales leads that were sent to dealers through the site. This information from 2010 through 2012 allowed them to determine where the interest rested. They could determine the number of inquiries of domestic versus the number of inquiries regarding imports or cars manufactured by foreign-based companies.

For those of us who are unabashedly supporting the domestic manufacturing process (and the thousands of jobs that go with it), there’s not a whole lot of good news to be found on this map. What we are looking for is the dark red and it is a conspicuous color … conspicuous because there’s not a whole lot of it.

Based on the study, there are five states that have a high interest in buying American. Those states are Michigan, Iowa, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota. The number five is the smallest number of any other grouping.

The dark red coloring means 60 to 70 percent of the inquiries dealt with American cars. These are the people that are showing their belief in the product and the industry. While these five states are the best for the American auto industry, the pink states reflect pretty good, or 50 to 60 percent interest in domestic cars.

Interestingly, the pink states look remarkably similar to the land that was included in the Louisiana Purchase, but I struggle to find a correlation. In addition to the Midwest states, Ohio, Indiana and West Virginia fall into that classification. The final state in the group is Alaska. There are 13 states (13 original colonies … coincidence?) to be included here.

The remaining states, in purple and blue, represent those areas where there was less than 50 percent interest in American cars. By simple math, that means 32 of the 50 states have less than an average interest in domestic car purchases. That’s 64 percent or nearly two out of three. No matter how you slice it, it is a clear majority. All states that border an ocean are in this group (except Alaska). The South, which is once a hotbed of “Buy American”, has become less interested in that. Perhaps it had something to do with the location of those auto plants in the southern region.

Like most scientific studies, you can’t reach any conclusions, but analyze tendencies. We don’t know how many of the inquiries were based on Super Bowl commercials or the fact that the neighbors bought their daughter a car for graduation. We don’t know how many of the leads turned into actual sales or if one household was responsible for more than one lead. There are a lot of problems in methodology that prevent information from becoming fact.

Viewing the chart took me back to a radio address made by Canadian broadcaster Gordon Sinclair in 1973. At the time, the U.S. dollar was taking a beating and Sinclair was riled up about no one aiding the Americans, who were always first to help someone else. One wonders what Mr. Sinclair would think today when it looks like the American car buying public isn’t supporting its own.

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