Doing away with the ‘domestic’ versus ‘foreign’ mentality

Doing away with the ‘domestic’ versus ‘foreign’ mentality

In the February 3, 2014 issue of Automotive News, I read editor-in-chief Keith Crain’s weekly column commenting on some aspect of the auto industry.

I was pleased to learn that Crain recognizes just how different today’s automotive retail landscape is. The buzz right now is of course the trend of buying cars online or direct from manufacturers, but we have skipped over a very important observation – one that is rarely talked about publicly, especially from the mouth of America’s birthplace of automotive manufacturing and history.

In his piece, “This is not a simple business anymore,” Crain speaks to the evolving face of the car industry. No longer are cars either made in America or imported from Japan or Germany. Today’s cars are global works of art. They are made up of components from around the world. And that’s not just the case for the European and Asian makes; it applies to the Detroit Three as well.

We live and operate in a global marketplace. Consumers order goods from online stores, products made and often shipped from China. The difference is that we’re now admitting that it’s not so important to compete about how American one car is versus another. It should no longer be ‘us versus them’. We should rid calling products built by companies other than Chrysler, Ford or General Motors “imports” or “foreign” cars.

“My sense is that the era of declaring what is a domestic and what is an import has passed. It’s time to recognize that all the manufacturers represented in the United States are sourcing vehicles from all over the world.” – Keith Crain, editor-in-chief, Automotive News (Feb. 3 commentary)

Dealers could certainly help us relinquish the outdated terminology. I cringe every time someone refers to a Toyota or BMW as a “foreign” car (often pronounced fah-rin). The Camry is built in Kentucky and has been listed in the top of the ‘American-Made Index’ since 2009. The BMW X3  that I drive was built from the ground up in Spartanburg, S.C.

So what makes that Camry built in Kentucky an import? And how is that Ford assembled in Mexico domestic? The lines of homegrown and imported are blurred forever.

Cars are international – all of them. And that’s OK. It’s time that we, as an industry, come together and stop drawing dividing lines. The auto industry is a powerful source of lifeblood to the American economy.

Kudos to Mr. Crain for enlightening others on this matter. I truly respect his willingness to speak honestly about how our industry has changed. Let’s not go kicking and screaming into the present day as we did in 2008. Let’s walk forward, together, and continue to contribute majorly to American jobs, households, and individual people.


Editor’s note: It should be noted that I provide strategic communications services for companies that have the same point of view. While I align with my clients’ perspective on the issue of a global automotive marketplace, this is not meant to push any agenda. I previously worked in the ‘Import Sales’ department of a Hendrick dealership. This bothered me then, and it still irks me today.

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Melanie Batenchuk founded Be Car Chic in 2009 as a way to help consumers make smart decisions when buying and selling their cars. Her prior work at the dealership, trade association and manufacturer levels has provided her a deep understanding of the complex facets within the auto industry, making her a leading woman in her field.

There are 2 comments for this article
  1. Adam at 4:27 PM

    Totally agree. The view of “foreign cars” is perpetuated by domestic automakers. They all source parts and supplies globally like every other automaker, they just aren’t keen to say that.

  2. Manny at 9:00 AM

    Well argued Melanie! The auto industry is as global as they come, and the more we recognize that there’s no longer a bright line between “foreign” and “domestic,” the sooner we can move away from the kinds of vitriolic battles that divide the classic American automakers from the automakers with origins in other countries that manufacture in the United States. Cooperation in this industry can and should benefit all auto companies and consumers.