Just recently, Tesla’s Model S, Model 3, and Model X made a big splash at cars.com’s 2020 American-made Index, an annual survey that ranks vehicles which “contribute most to the US economy” through factory jobs, manufacturing plants, and parts sourcing. Tesla’s Model S3X line took numbers 3, 4, and 9 in the Top 10 list, which is impressive on its own right. However, these results could have easily been better, if more respondents to cars.com’s study had been more aware about Tesla, its products, and its operations.
A look at the results of cars.com’s Top 10 American-made Index list shows that there is still an information divide between Tesla’s electric vehicles and mainstream car buyers. Topping the Top 10 rankings of the survey are the Ford Ranger and the Jeep Cherokee, which are iconic for being American cars but are hardly more US-based than Tesla’s trifecta of electric vehicles. In fact, a case could even be made that the Model S, Model 3, and Model X are more American than the Ranger and Cherokee, considering that Tesla’s vehicles are made in the US using American labor and (for the most part) components.
This year marks the first time that Tesla supplied cars.com with the information necessary to qualify for the annual survey. According to Kelsey Mays, cars.com’s senior consumer affairs and vehicle evaluations editor, the location where a vehicle is made is becoming increasingly important these days, especially in the light of the ongoing pandemic.
“We live in a global economy, but cars.com’s research found 70% of American shoppers consider a car’s U.S. economic impact a significant or deciding factor in their vehicle purchase. The COVID-19 pandemic is increasing Americans’ desire to buy local, with 37% reporting they are more likely to buy an American-made vehicle in light of the economic disruption of COVID-19,” Mays said.
This is where the information gap between Tesla and mainstream American car buyers still exists. According to cars.com, only about 10% of American car buyers recognized Tesla as “California-made” in 2019, and this year, the number has increased to 18%. The motoring firm added that only half of the survey’s total respondents were aware that Tesla was an American company, and only a third of those who participated knew that the Model S was built in the United States. These show that for a significant number of mainstream car buyers, Tesla’s vehicles are still an unfamiliar concept, and one that is not associated with the US the same way as Ford’s pickups and Jeep’s off-roaders.
While it is impressive that the number of American buyers recognizing Tesla as a US-focused company is growing over the past years as per cars.com’s survey results, it appears that Tesla could still do so much more to emphasize the fact that its vehicles are made in the US. Granted, the company is very firm in its stance against traditional advertising, but there are ways to disseminate information about the company and its products without resorting to conventional marketing tricks.
These could go a long way towards ensuring that more people remain informed about what Tesla really is and what its products can do. After all, Tesla’s electric vehicles still made a strong impact on cars.com’s Top 10 American-made Index, even with a significant number of respondents being uninformed about the company or the nature of its operations.
Fortunately, the company’s next two vehicles would likely raise more awareness about Tesla’s US-based roots. Following the Model Y crossover, Tesla is poised to ramp the production of the Semi, a Class 8 long-hauler, and the Cybertruck, a pickup. Both these vehicles are poised to be operated by drivers who personify the ideals of workers that value utility and practicality. And these, ultimately, could help make Tesla be recognized better as a company that makes American cars by American workers using American resources.
This very point was emphasized by Jay Leno in a previous statement about Tesla and the flak it receives from critics. Speaking with CNBC’s The Exchange, Leno candidly stated that he does not really get where all the criticism of Tesla is coming from, considering the company’s milestones over the years.
“In the mid-teens, there were 350 car companies in the United States. Every year since then, two or three of them dropped out… There’s a whole bunch that just disappeared. So here comes a brand new car company, so that’s impressive. It’s a tough business to get into; and the fact that Tesla is making a go of it and quite successfully, I think is impressive and should be applauded. We’re becoming like the British — we like noble failures. I would watch, listen to these radio talk shows just tear Tesla apart; and I go, ‘Here’s a guy, building an American car in America, using American labor. Why are you not rooting for it to be successful? Why do you wish it would fail?’ I don’t quite understand,” he said.