The Tesla Model 3 has captured Cars.com’s “American-Made” Index, a monumental achievement for the automaker’s mass-market sedan. Not only is the recognition a huge feather in the cap for Tesla, but also for the electric vehicle movement as it is the first time an EV has topped the list.
Since 2005, Cars.com has compiled a list qualifying all vehicles built and bought in the U.S. This year’s study ranked 90 vehicles through five categories of major criteria: assembly location, parts content, engine origins, transmission origins, and U.S. manufacturing workforce. For the first time in the 16-year history of the Index, Tesla has topped the list, also becoming the first all-electric car to capture the top spot from vehicles like the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Corvette, and Jeep Cherokee, three long-standing vehicles that have been included in the Index’s past rankings.
The Model 3 topped the 2021 list after coming in fourth just a year ago, being recognized as the most “American-Made” vehicle for the first time in its nearly four-year stay in the U.S. automotive market. First being delivered in mid-2017, the Model 3 was Tesla’s first mass-market sedan and was arguably the catalyst to the American EV sector. After the Model 3 was released by Tesla, it proved that EVs could be affordable, and they could begin displacing the overwhelming majority of gas-powered engines that dominated U.S. roads. Since then, the Model 3 has made a tremendous dent in the ICE market, especially in the sedan body style. The Model 3 was the 16th best-selling car in the world, according to a May 2021 report from Forbes.
The key to Tesla’s overwhelmingly domestic production process of its vehicles starts with the company’s focus on vertical integration. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has commented on the company’s focus on this in the past, highlighting the automaker’s general strategy of creating its own machinery to design things. To Musk, this could be one of the company’s biggest advantages over competitors due to Tesla’s ability to not depend on manufacturers to provide parts. Instead, Tesla can basically build a car from the ground up using what it has in-house, to an extent. Of course, the company still utilizes suppliers for things like tires and glass, but the bulk of the car is produced by Tesla.
“Tesla is absolutely vertically integrated compared to other auto companies or basically most any company,” Musk said during the Q3 2020 Earnings Call. “We have a massive amount of internal manufacturing technology that we built ourselves. We literally make the machine. In fact, we design it — so like, OK, what are the things we want to make, design a machine that will make that thing, then we make the machine. This is what — this makes it quite difficult to copy Tesla, which we’re not actually all that opposed to people copying us, but it’s quite difficult because you can’t do catalog engineering. You can’t just pick up the supplier catalog, I’ll get one of those machines, one of that machine; bingo, I’m now Tesla. You have to — there is no catalog,” he continued.
This has also led to its understanding of its product to depths that many other automotive manufacturers simply cannot match. Tesla’s in-house Insurance program also receives dividends from the company’s vertical integration because the cars are made up of so many company-produced parts. This allows for a greater understanding of the product.
Amazingly, the Model 3 was not the only Tesla vehicle on the list, and in fact, it wasn’t the only Tesla in the top 3. The Model Y made its debut on the list, coming in at #3. This is not much of a surprise as the Model 3 and Model Y share a very similar design, and some have indicated that the two vehicles share 75% of the same parts. This makes the Model Y a no-brainer for this list, only being bested by the Model 3 and the Ford Mustang.
The full “American-Made” Index from Cars.com can be viewed here.