What is an American car? – American made. You know big, better, badder you know. Chris Longo builds and restores cars for a living, American cars. – We’ve got to build within our country. This is what America’s new trade policy is all about. – Buy American and hire American. Protecting American workers. Except GM, Ford, those symbols of America, aren’t even really made in America. No car that comes off the line today is 100% made in America. – Driving a Canadian Impala. And if you really want to support American workers, you could buy Japanese. I’m Preeti Varathan. This is Quartz. Subscribe to our channel for more videos like this. This is the Yuko-En Japanese garden. It’s not in Japan. It’s not anywhere in Asia. It’s in Georgetown, Kentucky. Because of cars. We went to Georgetown to understand what America makes. Georgetown is home to one of the biggest auto plants in the world. A plant that today can produce more than 500,000 cars and 600,000 engines in a year. A plant that makes a car so American, by some measures, it ranked as the most American-made vehicle two years in a row. It’s the Japanese Toyota Camry. – This is it, May of 1988. – Does it bring back fond memories? – Oh yeah. This is Avery Bussell. Thirty years ago, he started on the team that built the very first North American Camry. Yep, that one there. He’s one of more than 8,000 Americans working at this plant. Avery says that because of his job at Toyota, he’s making more money than he ever thought he would. – From a financial standpoint, you know, we’re very fortunate. But Toyota has brought more than jobs to Georgetown. – I remember when I came across that hill in 1979, it looked like it was dying, and I think it was. That’s Jack Conner. He helps businesses get off the ground in Georgetown. He says you can see the effects of Toyota everywhere. – This is what happens when you build that very, very strong manufacturing base, and the numbers don’t lie. The numbers he’s talking about, the knock-on effects of having a company like Toyota come to town. Toyota uses more than a hundred suppliers, Kentucky companies that make everything from its seats to its tires. Toyota has supported schools, students, universities. It’s attracted more than 70 Japanese companies to Kentucky, companies that hire Americans. – Business is thriving in this area? – Business is thriving. And Georgetown isn’t a special, isolated case. There are foreign car companies all over America. BMW’s biggest plant is in South Carolina. Kia has a plant in Georgia. Hyundai is making cars in Alabama. Honda just opened its 12th American plant. And a lot of these factories are expanding. For the first time, foreign car companies are set to make more cars in America than American companies will. The forces that pushed American car companies to move overseas have made it so that fewer cars are actually made in America. But it also means that many of the cars that are made here are not made by American companies, and that basically no car today is entirely made in America, or in any one country. We know because we tried to find a completely American car. And we actually did. – I think this one is probably about 100%. Yep, the one that looks like it belongs to James Bond. Chris Longo has painstakingly sourced every part. Its chassis is from Washington state. Its turbo is built in America. Its engine was made in America. Its tires are local. It’s also decades old and expensive, very expensive. To get a car that’s 100% made in America, Chris had to restore it himself, because cars are just not made like that anymore. – That’s curious. That’s interesting, a Ford coming in from India. Frank DuBois is a professor at American University. He’s obsessed with one question: How made in America is your car? – I used to work on Volkswagens. So I became pretty familiar with tools and repair quite early. As a teenager, he fixed cars. Now as a professor, he’s created the most comprehensive made in America index. It’s got over 500 cars. He’s pretty much the expert on where cars are from. – And I go up and I, if it’s parked I look at the VIN number if I’m curious, you know. – Yeah? So a car lot like this, is kind of Frank’s version of a candy store. – It’s from Canada. American. It’s Mexican. Alright, here’s a guy with an American flag, patriotic. – Very patriotic. – Driving a Canadian Impala. Frank says figuring out where a car is made is actually super complicated. – I think it was made in the U.S. but I bet it was made in Mexico. – What does that mean? – It means you can’t always tell a book by its cover. To understand that look at Ford. Ford is an American company. And some of its cars are sourced and made in America. But its transmissions are also made in Brazil, Slovakia, the UK, China, France, and Germany. And its engines can come from Romania, China, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, or Turkey. Freshly minted Fords come off the line in plants all over the globe. Because Ford assembles cars in China, India, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Thailand, Vietnam, Brazil, Venezuela, Canada, and Germany. You get it. This is why Frank likes to say that cars are more like humans than objects. They’ve got messy DNA. They can be part Indian, part Mexican, part Hungarian and American. And this, the complicated, messy DNA of cars, is all a product of trade. Frank thinks this is a good thing. Competition has given us better cars. And moving factories to cheaper places brings down prices. Whether or not you agree with him, globalization is a reality. Because pretty much all of the products that surround us, besides the ones we can grow to the ground, are just like cars. They have messy DNA, too. And that messy DNA means policies that protect American industry, and only American industry, are really hard to pull off. A tariff on imported cars and parts would hurt foreign car companies like BMW and Toyota, because they do build cars overseas. But it would also hurt big American companies like Ford, GM and Chevy. The same way steel tariffs help American steel, while hurting the American car industry. Because when America slaps tariffs on a good they might be helping one type of American worker, but they’re usually hurting other kinds of American workers, and plenty of foreign workers. If the lesson from cars is anything, it’s that what you think of as American, isn’t necessarily American. And what you think of as foreign isn’t either. Frank isn’t saying Toyota is 100% American, because where the idea for the car came from, the design, the R&D, that matters too. – It’s an American car insofar as it’s assembled in America, using American labor. But, at the end of the day, it’s a blend of Japanese. And those profits go back to the engineers, designers, the executives, the shareholders, people in Japan. But to guys like Avery, guys on the assembly line, they don’t see Toyota as foreign. They see it as American, as Georgetown, Kentucky. – When I hear Toyota, it’s, it’s Georgetown. It’s Scott County. It’s Kentucky. – Do you think Kentuckians feel a pride in Toyota or a loyalty to Toyota? – Yes. Yes, very much so. To guys like Avery, it isn’t the brand or company that dictates how made in America a thing is. It’s the place, the workers, people like him. Hey guys, thanks for watching this video. Does it matter to you where your things are made? Let us know in the comments, and subscribe to the Quartz channel for more of our videos.