Forget Ford, General Motors and Chrysler: Tesla is set to become the most American car maker in the world.
Currently, Tesla’s all-electric Model S sedan, made at its Fremont factory in California, is made using parts sourced from all around the world. According to current Tesla estimates, (via The Motley Fool) around 55 per cent of the materials used in a Model S today come from either the United States or from Canada.
When Tesla’s massive lithium-ion Gigafactory manufacturing and reprocessing plant opens in a few years’ time, Tesla says 90 per cent of the materials used in its cars will come from U.S. sources. That makes it more American than Apple Pie.
It also makes the luxury plug-in more American than the Ford F-150 Pickup Truck. Currently America’s favourite passenger vehicle, the F150 has held the claim to being the biggest and best-selling U.S.-made vehicle today. But even the mighty Ford F150 can’t hold a candle to the 90 per cent U.S. made Tesla of the future.
Traditionally, automakers have always shipped parts and components from all over the world to use in their vehicles, with overseas suppliers often beating domestic ones in terms of price, quality or volume. But with increasing shipping costs worldwide and a trend back towards U.S.-made products for the U.S.-market, more and more automakers are starting to rethink their supply chains.
Nissan, for example, recently switched motor wire suppliers for its U.S.-market Nissan LEAF — made in Smyrna, TN — from a Japanese supplier to one based in Indiana. This not only helped Nissan support more U.S. workers, but dramatically dropped the price and lead time for motor wire supplies. Similarly, GM recently switched battery production for its Spark EV from LG Chem in South Korea to an in-house battery production facility already making battery packs for the Chevrolet Volt and Cadillac ELR.
While the trend in electric vehicles does appear to be shifting towards sourcing locally-made parts wherever possible to keep cost and environmental footprints low, the concept of a U.S.-made car with domestic parts is still fairly alien to the automotive industry. In this year’s American-Made Index from Cars.com, only ten cars met the list’s inclusion criteria of containing more than 75 per cent domestic parts, although it’s worth noting that hybrid (and presumably electric) cars weren’t included on the list.
Of those cars, only three vehicles — the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, and Dodge SRT Viper — were made by U.S. car companies. The rest were U.S.-made, domestic market vehicles from Japanese automakers Toyota and Honda.
Stereotypically, owners of pickup trucks — particularly those who enjoy the past time of Rollin’ Coal — are part of a fiercely patriotic customer base who won’t buy a car if it isn’t U.S. made by a U.S. firm. The question is this: will they trade their F-150s and Super Duties in for a Tesla Model S if the Model S is more American than their go-anywhere truck?
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