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The Best American Cars of 2009

This article was written by in Consumer. 7 comments.

Consumer Reports leaves little to the imagination when in the April issue, the editors state emphatically, “The best vehicles are built by Honda, Subaru, and Toyota.” Yet, if you are feeling patriotic, you want to single-handedly save an entire domestic industry, you’re not worried about future service from a company that may no longer exist, or you want to do your part to try to save thousands of American jobs, you may ignore this and buy an American car. For you, CNN has parsed Consumer Reports’ ratings to find the highest ranked domestic vehicles.

  • Family sedan: Chevrolet Malibu at $21,605, 30/22 mpg
  • Small car: Ford Focus at $15,520, 35/24 mpg
  • Upscale sedan: Lincoln MKZ at $32,695, 28/18 mpg
  • Luxury sedan: Cadillac DTS at $46,280, 23/15 mpg
  • Small SUV: Ford Escape Hybrid at $29,645, 31/34 mpg
  • Mid-size SUV: Ford Taurus X at $28,270, 24/17 mpg
  • Pick-up: Chevrolet Avalanche at $35,460, 20/14 mpg
  • Green car: Ford Escape Hybrid at $29,645, 31/34 mpg

Consumer Reports admits, as they have been for the past few years, that the quality of American cars is increasing and that the fact that a car is produced by a Japanese company doesn’t automatically guarantee reliability.

The testers at Consumer Reports do not receive cars directly from factories as other publishers do. Rather than reviewing a superbly tuned and tested vehicle, designed specifically for those who write reviews at other publications, Consumer Reports publishers buy cars from dealers just like a typical consumer would. They visit the dealerships and buy the car directly without mentioning their association with Consumer Union. This ensures they’re seeing the same product the typical auto consumer would see.

Who makes the best cars?, Consumer Reports, April 2009.
Best American cars, CNN Money, March 9, 2009.

Published or updated March 9, 2009. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar GJS

American is a misnomer; even the companies with headquarters in the US do very little production within the US. Translation: Buying “American” does little to help working/middle class Americans because they aren’t the men and women building most American cars. However, several of the “Asian” manufacturers actually have production facilities, albeit non-union, in South Carolina, Tennessee, etc.

If you’d like to be truly patriotic, do your homework on where the specific make/model vehicle you’re considering is manufactured and assembled.

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avatar Ken

Although US auto makers may import parts from other regions, they’re still assembled in America. I don’t understand why you’re saying that if you buy “American” you’re really not supporting the American auto makers. American auto makers have domestic assembling plants. Although foreign auto makers may have assembling plants in the US, the profit is not going to an American auto companies, it’s going to the foreign car companies. So, I disagree with you’re over all issue of buying American vs. foreign and who gets the profit from buying the new car. While, if you buy a foreign brand car, of course a portion of the profit rests in American hands, but not like the profit made in the purchase of an American car.

American auto makers are finally raising the bar and are putting great products out on the market. Look into American made cars, I’m sure not complaining.

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avatar UH2L

Consumer Reports is flawed in how they do their research and they are biased. It shows when they criticize a twin car with an American brand while not criticizing the Japanese counterpart for the same thing. A specific example is how they didn’t criticize center console mounted window switches on BMW’s but chastised the Saturn L Series which had them at the time. There is a better site that doesn’t sample only from its readers and does other things right. It’s called truedelta.com.

Anyway, American versus Import is more than just being about where the vehicle is built. Don’t forget the higher numbers of white collar jobs attributed to the Detroit-based manufacturers. These include jobs in engineering, marketing, finance, dealer operations, etc… It should also be remembered where the profit goes in the end and how much the various companies have donated to charitable causes in the past. Manufacturing of the parts that go into a vehicle also affect the “American-ness” of the vehicle.

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avatar mapgirl

I agree with GJS. B/c of NAFTA, many Japanese branded cars are built in the US, and by ‘built’ I mean final assembly. Toyota has greenfield factories in the US. Consider NUMMI in Southern California: Toyota Corolla, Toyota Tacoma and Pontiac Vibe are all made there.

GM used to have a factory in Sparrows Point in Baltimore that made the GMC Safari and other GM light trucks. The affiliated Allison transmission plant is still in suburban B’more.

BMW IIRC has a plant in South Carolina.
Honda in Ohio.
VW has plants in Mexico and recently announced a plant for TN. Plus their North American HQ is in suburban DC where I live. :-)

Of course many of the Japanese plants are not UAW or discourage unionizing. Not sure what that picture looks like these days.

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avatar mapgirl

Correction. NUMMI is in NorCal, not SoCal. I forgot I took a plant tour there right after college. (And a plant tour of Sparrows Point for college.)

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avatar mapgirl

BTW, if you want more insight into modern auto manufacturing practices, read up on Toyota Production System (TPS). It will teach you about Just In Time and kaizen (constant improvement) practices. Also read up on critiques of TPS and how it pressures second and third-tier suppliers/manufacturing. You’ll notice Wal-Mart has similar practices.

Remember, somewhere, someone is suffering because you wanted to buy something cheaply.

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avatar UH2L

“Just in time is not good just in case”. If there’s a plant fire or disturbance to transport of parts, vehicle assembly lines can be forced to shut down. Otherwise it works well, makes plants more efficient, less inventory expense and all that good stuff.

I just noticed in my prior comment that my reference to the BMW and Saturn L may have made it seem like I was calling those twins, which they’re definitely not. Examples of twins would be the Toyota Matrix and Pontiac Vibe.

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