The 2020 Ford Ranger Is Cars.com’s Most American-Made Vehicle

Cars.com 2020 American-Made Index Illustration of Cars Leaving a Factory

Cars.com illustration by Paul Dolan

By Aaron Bragman

Last year, the top-ranked pickup truck in Cars.com’s 2019 American-Made Index was the Honda Ridgeline, which finished in the No. 3 spot behind the Jeep Cherokee SUV and Honda Odyssey minivan. This year, however, the top spot in the survey is a pickup truck — it’s the new 2020 Ford Ranger, beating out every other vehicle built in this country that met Cars.com’s criteria to rank at the top of the listing of more than 90 vehicles. The American-Made Index is Cars.com’s annual analysis of what comprises an “American-made” car or truck, taking into account factors like assembly location, parts content, drivetrain sourcing and factory employment to determine just how much of a vehicle made here is really sourced here. PickupTrucks.com is a subsidiary of Cars.com.

Related: The Cars.com 2020 American-Made Index: Which Cars Are Most American?

This year, the Ranger came out on top, after experiencing a significant increase in the proportion of American- or Canadian-made parts content in the truck. The list (all 2020 models) is populated with other pickups, but maybe not quite as many as you might expect, and not as high up on the list as you might have hoped. Other trucks high on the list include:

How Does the Ranking Work?

The American-Made Index considers five main factors in its ranking:

  • The final vehicle assembly location
  • The origin of parts in the vehicle as reported for the American Automobile Labeling Act 
  • The origin country (or countries) for its engines
  • The origin country (or countries) for transmissions
  • The number of Americans its parent automaker employs at the factory level

What won’t you see on the list? Heavy-duty vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 8,500 or more, as those are exempt from government reporting requirements, as well as a handful of other cars that don’t meet Cars.com’s ranking criteria: fleet-only models, cars that fall below minimum sales or inventory thresholds, models about to be discontinued without a U.S.-built successor, and cars not yet on sale at the time of the study. The 2020 Nissan Frontier with its new engine and transmission wasn’t on sale at the time of the study, so even though it’s built in the U.S., the Frontier didn’t meet the criteria to make our list.   

For the full list of the 91 most American-made vehicles, including the top spot, see Cars.com's 2020 American-Made Index.

How Did the Ford Ranger Win This Year but Not Last Year?

So why did the Ranger come out on top this year? We talked to Cars.com’s Senior Consumer Affairs Editor Kelsey Mays, the keeper of the AMI list and the guru behind the formulation of the equation that determines the ranking, as to why the Ranger appeared on top of this year’s list.

“The percentage of U.S. and Canadian content went up significantly for the 2020 model year, jumping from 50% in the leftover 2019 models we audited to 70% for the 2020s,” Mays said. “It started out 2019 model year at just 35%, so that’s a significant rise, but the number has been trending upwards.” The biggest reason is that the sourcing of the engine has changed — originally the turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine (standard on every Ranger) had majority-Mexico content, but it’s now majority-U.S. content. The transmission was always American, and the truck is built in Wayne, Mich.. As more of the Ranger’s parts started to come from U.S. and Canadian sources, its percentage of AALA content went up, putting it in the top spot for 2020.

As seen above, Honda’s and GM’s’ mid-size trucks also fall into the top 15 on the list, but one popular mid-size truck does not — the Toyota Tacoma, which sits way down the list at No. 84 out of 91 qualifying vehicles. Given that Tacoma has a plant in Texas, why is it so low? It’s about the mix of trucks sold in the U.S. Toyota makes some of the Tacomas sold here in Texas, but it makes a lot of them in two different plants in Mexico as well — and any imported sales volume lowers a model’s AMI score — with a lot of their parts also being sourced elsewhere. Jeep’s Gladiator sits mid-pack on the list in the No. 40 spot, built in Toledo, Ohio, next to the Jeep Wrangler. 

Where Are the Full-Size Trucks?

You may be wondering where all the full-size trucks sit on this list of most American-made vehicles, and the answer is (with one exception) largely at the bottom of the pack:

The Toyota Tundra ranks well, being made in Texas and taking a better spot this year now that the company has eliminated the base 4.6-liter V-8 engine, which paired with a Japanese-sourced transmission. The Ford F-150 has only about 50% U.S/Canadian content, thanks to the high percentage of EcoBoost turbocharged V-6 engines — all of which are from Mexico. The Ram 1500 is in roughly the same situation, as all of its engines are from Mexico aside from the V-6 EcoDiesel, which comes from Italy, and the eight-speed automatic for the diesel-equipped truck, which comes from Germany. Nissan’s Titan is built in Mississippi with engines from nearby Decherd, Tenn., but still features a significant portion of foreign parts content — including the transmission. A good bit of the production of the Ram 1500 Classic (that’s the old, last-generation version of the Ram 1500 that is still sold in the U.S.) comes from its plant in Saltillo, Mexico. And that’s what really sinks half-ton versions of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra on this list, as a significant number of them are assembled in Silao, Mexico, instead of Roanoke, Ind. (that is, Fort Wayne).

Something to keep in mind: the vehicles toward the bottom of this list shouldn’t necessarily be considered “losers” when it comes to American content. Yes, the ones at the top have significantly more U.S. and Canadian content in them, but there are still nearly 250 vehicles that are sold in America that are not on this list because they are themselves imported. For pickups, however, all of the ones sold in the U.S. are made in North America, with data available and calculated in the AMI for those under 8,500 pounds GVWR, and the rankings here reflect their content. By our calculations, the Ford Ranger is 2020’s most American vehicle you can buy, pickup or not.

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