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The future of “Made in America” is Tesla, not Ford

Reuters/Jim Young
Elon Musk is smarter than you.
By John McDuling
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Ford’s F-150 pickup truck is about as American as a vehicle can get.

Not only has the iconic truck been the country’s top-selling vehicle for 32 straight years (and the top-selling truck for 37);  they are also the most American-made. The giant F150 topped’s American-Made index last year, which measures where parts come from, where the car is assembled, and sales.

But that could soon change. According to Morgan Stanley, Tesla vehicles could soon claim the top spot on that list, once the company’s much-vaunted $6-billion gigafactory to produce its own lithium-ion batteries is up and running.

By then, more than 90% of the stuff used to build Tesla’s cars might be from America, according to Morgan Stanley, compared to 75% for the F-150.

Of course, Tesla must first build the gigafactory, and then start producing batteries, before this even starts to become true. Here’s the company’s own projected timeline for the enormous project, which is expected to employ up to 6,500 people and produce more lithium-ion batteries than the entire industry currently does by 2020.

And to be fair, Ford recently announced that it would shift some of its truck production back from Mexico to the US, and people have been genuinely excited about “reshoring” of manufacturing for a while now. If that trend continues, competition for the most American-made car could become stiffer.

At any rate, Detroit’s big-three automakers (Ford, General Motors and Chrysler) have been at the heart of the US economy for decades. (“What was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa,” GM’s former CEO Charlie Wilson famously said in 1953.)

Being made in America is arguably less of a selling point for them than it was in the 1980s, when anxiety about the rise of the economic might of Japan gripped the country. But ceding that mantle to the disruptive upstart Tesla would certainly be a bitter pill to swallow.

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