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Best of luck with buying domestic

So you want to "buy American." Great.

How about a PT Cruiser? Couldn't get more American than that, right? The Cruiser has to be the quintessential American car, modeled after hot rods of yesteryear by Chrysler, which was founded in America in 1925.

Oops! It turns out the PT Cruiser isn't built in America at all. It's made in Mexico, then imported to the United States. To complicate matters, Chrysler is no longer an American company, technically speaking. It is a subsidiary of Daimler-Benz of Stuttgart, Germany.

Well, how about a Pontiac GTO? That has to be American, made by General Motors and named after an American Indian chief. Boy, you couldn't get more American than that!

Wrong.

The Pontiac GTO is based on a car from a GM subsidiary in Australia, and it is built by Australians, then imported to America.

There are a lot of cars that really are American, of course, but the point is that the car industry is so internationalized, "buying American" really doesn't mean much anymore. And buying an "import" may not mean much, either.

For example, let's say you are a sports car purist and love German cars. You choose a BMW Z4 _ after all, BMW stands for Bayerische Motoren Werke. That's Deutsche for sure.

Nope. The Z4 was designed by an American and is built in the United States.

Well, how about a Land Rover? The Brits are still British, aren't they? And you can't get any more English than a good old Land Rover! Sorry. Land Rover's Range Rover, while built in England, has a German engine from BMW, and the company is owned by Ford.

Boy, this gets really complicated!

To heck with it. Let's buy Japanese. They make great cars. Okay, here we go _ a Toyota Camry Solara. You can tell "made in Japan" when you see it, right?

Nope. This nifty car was, for the most part, developed by Toyota's U.S. technical center and design studio, and it is built in the United States using mostly American-made parts.

What about other foreign icons like the Audi TT and the latest evolution of the Volkswagen Beetle? They surely must be German.

Not exactly. Both were designed by an American who speaks German (the same American, in fact: Freeman Thomas), but the TT is actually assembled in Hungary. I'm not sure where the Beetle is made, but it probably isn't where you think it would be.

Some Nissans are built in Mississippi, and some Toyotas call Kentucky home. As for the all-American Ford Crown Victoria sedan (and police car), it is actually built in Canada. So is its twin, the Mercury Marquis.

Most Honda Accords are built in Marysville, Ohio, although a few are still imported. Toyota's big pickup truck, the Tundra, is a native of Indiana. The German M-Series Mercedes-Benz sport utility is also built in America (in Alabama), and South Korean car builder Hyundai is now building a plant near Montgomery, Ala., that will churn out "Korean" cars. Even the Cadillac isn't American _ at least not the Catera. It was built in Russelsheim, Germany.

Ford owns Aston Martin, Jaguar, Lincoln, Mercury, Volvo and part of Mazda, so you tell me if they are Japanese, American, British or Swedish. General Motors is the parent of Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Hummer, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Saab and Saturn, and it has a piece of Fiat, Isuzu, Subaru and Suzuki. It also partners with Toyota. Volkswagen owns Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini and VW, and it partners with Porsche. BMW owns Mini, BMW and Rolls-Royce.

I am sure there are more intertwined auto relationships, but enough is enough! Let's just end this discussion by saying that as far the auto industry is concerned, globalization has arrived.

Happy motoring, whoever you are and wherever your car came from!

QUIZ

(Be the first to answer the following question and win a small prize.)

Question: Your grandfather could have taken advantage of Chrysler's effort to offer Americans a reasonably priced luxury car with its DeSoto in 1929, just before the stock market crash _ true or false?

Answer to last week's quiz:

Question: In what year did the Plymouth division of Chrysler produce its first cars?

Answer: 1928. A new Plymouth sold for $670.

_ Send questions, suggestions or quiz answers to infoamericaontheroad.com, and we will do our best to respond, either in a subsequent column or via e-mail. Happy motoring!

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