Even in the age of a globalized automotive industry, buying an American car is still a great way to support this great nation’s economy. As we approach our country’s independence day let’s pause to take a look at some of the most all-American car models currently on sale, their history and what they mean to the industry today.
1. Ford Mustang
Nothing shouts “USA!” like apple pie, baseball and the Ford Mustang. Now in its 49th model year of continuous production, the Mustang ushered in the pony car era in American car building, combining a small, light chassis with big V8 power. The Mustang is Ford’s brand image car and has stayed true to its roots all these years, still one of the most exciting affordable sporty cars on the market. Bet on Ford having something truly special set up for the Mustang’s upcoming 50th anniversary.
The Dodge Charger name originally stood for a big, brash and powerful two-door muscle car making its debut the mid 1960s. Today the 1966-1970 Chargers are some of the most sought-after classic American cars with restored models commanding tens of thousands of dollars at auction. Critics balked when it was revealed that the 2006 Charger would sport four doors, though by retaining rear-wheel drive and HEMI V8 power Chrysler managed to create a full-size offering with a little more grunt than its competitors. Now if they could only solve reliability problems…
While the Chevrolet Silverado name was not given to Chevy’s full-size pickup line until the 1999 model year, Chevrolet’s pickup actually dates all the way back to 1930. The Silverado and its GMC Sierra clone combine for a significant new car market share every year, outselling most passenger cars as the demand for a good work truck will never go away. Each year the Ford F-150 and the Silverado/Sierra battle for supremacy in sales and quality with both models getting better and better as the bar is continuously raised. Competition is good, and in the end, the consumer wins.
4. Jeep Patriot
With a name like “Patriot” it is clear that Chrysler’s Jeep brand is going for that all-American brand image with its compact-midsize crossover. The Patriot fills the niche between the larger Liberty and surprise-hit Grand Cherokee models at one end and the pint-sized Jeep Compass crossover at the other. Powered by fairly efficient four-cylinder engines and with available four-wheel drive, the Patriot is one of the least expensive true SUVs that money can buy with decent capabilities on bad roads and polite manners on good ones.
Dodge’s RAM 1500 is the perennial third-place finisher in U.S. pickup truck sales behind the F-150 and Chevy Silverado. That said, the RAM still brings in big cash for Chrysler in a notoriously profitable market segment. To help catapult the model, Chrysler started selling the RAM under its own brand, RAM Trucks, rather than as a Dodge. The big bruiser still features a Dodge logo here and there, though. Our favorite RAM truck since the model’s 1981 introduction? The 2004-2006 Viper V10 engine-equipped Dodge RAM SRT-10, naturally, with over 500 horsepower and absolutely dreadful fuel economy.
6. Jeep Liberty
Now in its second model generation, the Jeep Liberty slots in just below the Grand Cherokee in Jeep’s North American lineup. Known as the Cherokee in other international markets, the Liberty is powered by a 3.7-liter PowerTech V6 and as a truck-based SUV it is more capable on the trails than Jeep’s Compass and Patriot. With names like “Patriot” and “Liberty” Chrysler is clearly courting buyers who want something distinctly American from its Jeep brand. The sales results are good as Jeep has been absolutely key to Chrysler’s financial turnaround.
7. Chrysler 200/300
Both the 200 and 300 are the poster children for Chrysler’s highly successful “Imported From Detroit” ad campaign, complete with stirring commercials featuring Eminem and Dr. Dre. While the 200 still shows some of the DNA of the lackluster Sebring which it replaced, at the very least it is a better-looking and more compelling model. The 300 is now in its second model generation and has been a bright spot all throughout Chrysler’s dark times. Its big, broad-shouldered footprint and classy lines earned it the nickname “the Baby Bentley,” and the 2012 model is even better looking than its predecessor.
If there is any sporty car that can challenge the Mustang for the “All-American” title it’s Chevrolet’s Camaro. The other pony car debuted for 1967 to immediate critical and buyer acclaim, then soldiered on through four model generations before stopping production in 2002. By that time the Camaro had lost its way and was still based on GM’s ancient F-body platform. For 2010 an all-new Camaro roared back as a compelling competitor once again, actually outselling the Mustang for calendar-year 2010. A starring role in the Transformers film series hasn’t hurt, either.
While Jeep has expanded over the years into a full lineup catering to SUV buyers of every persuasion, it is the Wrangler that stays truest to Jeep’s World War II military vehicle roots. The Wrangler nameplate only goes back as far as 1987 right before Jeep’s acquisition by Chrysler from American Motors. That said, the off-road-ready Wrangler is a direct spiritual successor to the historic Willys MB “Jeep” that helped the Allies win the war. Today it is arguably the best stock vehicle in which to do some serious offroading.
10. Ford F-150
Think the best-selling vehicle in America is a Toyota Camry? A Honda Accord, maybe? Wrong. Ford’s industry-standard F-Series pickup has been the best-selling new vehicle in the U.S. market for the last 29 consecutive years. The reason behind all the success? Simply put, Americans love trucks, and no one does them better than Ford. Barring any unforeseen circumstances at Ford it will be good hardworking folks shelling out their hard-earned cash year after year for a new F-Series, keeping the auto industry’s most successful model line to date on top.
The Big 3 in Detroit have been hard at work improving their offerings in an effort to convince you to buy American for your next car purchase. Will one of these 10 great cars find its home in your driveway?