Are Car Makers Buying Into ‘Buy American’ Strategy?

As U.S. automakers struggle to stay alive, “Buy American” consumer sentiment is one of the factors they have going for them. In USA Today/Gallup polling released this week (and fielded late last month), 37 percent of respondents said they’d “only consider cars from an American company” when in the market for a new vehicle.

That’s up from 30 percent saying the same in a December poll. There was a slight decline (from 15 percent to 12 percent) in the number who said they’d only consider buying from a foreign car company. Half the respondents said they’d be open to either sort.

There was wide variation among different age groups in the incidence of buy-American-only sentiment. While 45 percent of the poll’s 55-and-older respondents said they’d only consider American cars when making a purchase decision, the number fell to 37 percent among the 35-54-year-olds and to 27 percent among the 18-34s.

Given the geography of the American car business, it’s not surprising that there’s much regional variation as well. Fifty-two percent of respondents in the Midwest put themselves in the buy-American-only category, vs. 34 percent of those in the South and 31 percent in both the East and the West.

A breakdown by household income suggests Detroit will have best luck selling low-end rather than high-end cars through an appeal to national loyalties. Respondents with household income under $30,000 were almost twice as likely as those with income of $75,000-plus to say they’d only consider buying from an American automaker (49 percent vs. 26 percent). Those in the $30,000-74,999 bracket fell in between, at 37 percent.