Ohioans appear split on U.S.-made vehicles

Data show Michigan tops in buying domestic

Though Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler employ thousands statewide, only 49 percent of Ohioans buy autos from the Detroit Three. Analyst Jesse Toprak says Ohio is viewed as a valuable test market.
Though Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler employ thousands statewide, only 49 percent of Ohioans buy autos from the Detroit Three. Analyst Jesse Toprak says Ohio is viewed as a valuable test market.

Despite bordering the state that’s home to the Motor City, less than half of the new cars purchased in Ohio in 2012 were made by one of the Detroit Three.

TrueCar.com crunched sales data from last year and found that 49 percent of vehicles bought by Ohioans were made by Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group LLC, or General Motors Co. That means that Ohio ranks 19th among states with the highest number of buyers of domestic vehicles.

Not surprisingly, Michigan was the top state favoring domestic car manufacturers. TrueCar found that 79 percent of the cars bought in Michigan last year were domestics.

In general, domestics did best in the interior states, while import brands did best in coastal states.

Jesse Toprak, an analyst with TrueCar, said Ohio’s market-share numbers make sense considering the state’s demographics.

“Ohio is almost a true median of the American consumer, and that’s probably why you’re getting the split, even though on the surface it appears it should be a little higher based on the fact of proximity,” he said.

Mr. Toprak said marketers have viewed Ohio as a valuable test market because consumers here closely mirror the nation as a whole. That bears out in TrueCar’s data. Mr. Toprak said domestics have been trending lately in the range of 46 to 47 percent market share nationally for 2013.

Other likely reasons why Ohio tilts slightly toward imports include its pockets of wealthy buyers, who often select European luxury cars, and Honda’s strong presence in central Ohio, where it regularly pulls down the top spot in sales.

The state of Ohio says Honda Motor Co. employs about 13,500 Ohioans, making it one of the state’s larger employers. That has a trickle-down effect, Mr. Toprak said.

“It’s not just the employees,” Mr. Toprak said. “You have employees’ family, employees’ friends, there’s an indirect influence on thousands of people living in that area because of the operations.”

The Japanese automaker has four manufacturing plants in Ohio, including two auto assembly plants, building models that include the Accord coupe and sedan and the CR-V sport utility vehicle.

Still, GM, Ford, and Chrysler have thousands of employees in Ohio.

In Toledo, Chrysler builds the Jeep Cherokee and Jeep Wrangler. A second Chrysler plant in suburban Toledo supplies components for many of the company’s other vehicles.

Ford builds engines in Lima and Cleveland and assembles full-size vans in Avon Lake.

General Motors makes transmissions in Toledo and assembles the Chevrolet Cruze, its top-selling car, in Lordstown. In all, state officials say the Detroit Three employ more than 18,000 Ohioans.

And in areas where those employees are concentrated, domestic sales tend to be higher. Registration data compiled by AutoView Online in 2012 found that 63.1 percent of cars sold in the four-county Toledo metropolitan area were made by Chrysler, Ford, or GM.

After Michigan, the states with the largest number of buyers of domestic vehicles were North Dakota at 68 percent and South Dakota at 66 percent. Rounding out the top 10 were Iowa, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Indiana.

Though many of those states aren’t host to the auto industry, Mr. Toprak said the types of vehicles buyers there prefer tends to tilt the scales toward the Detroit Three.

Buyers in Hawaii were least likely to buy a car from Detroit, with fewer than 2 out of every 10 cars sold a GM, Chrysler, or Ford.

Muddying all this is the definition of what constitutes a domestic car. Though based in Auburn Hills, Mich., Chrysler’s majority owner is Fiat SpA, an Italian firm. And more and more, foreign-based manufacturers such as Hyundai Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co., and Volkswagen AG Co. are building vehicles on U.S. soil.

“They've all had a compelling argument, ‘we’re a domestic company, look at the jobs we’re creating here,’ ” Mr. Toprak said.

Toyota Motor Corp.’s Avalon, with 80 percent of its components coming from the United States or Canada, is the “most American made car,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s annual parts survey for 2013.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.