What comes to mind when someone says car and America in the same sentence? Maybe Ford. Chevy, perhaps. Jeep is a good one. All great brands, right? Very popular. Very reliable. Always innovating and catering to what drivers want. And, yes, a lot of their vehicles are made in America. But all three of these companies manufacture overseas as well. Ford alone has operations in Thailand, Portugal, and South Africa.
The term "Made in America" is a big deal for a lot of people. That label promotes a higher-quality product; a product that was built by the blood, sweat, and tears of an American, someone to whom we can relate; maybe even a neighbor.
But let's look at what recent reports are calling the most American car ever: Tesla.
The Kogod School of Business developed an index which indicates the value your vehicle brings to the US economy. The chart utilizes seven criteria, ultimately determining the location of the assembly and production of a vehicle's key components:
- Profit Margin (Location of Headquarters)
- Research & Development (R&D)
- Inventory, Capital, and Other Expenses
- Body, Chassis, and Electrical Components
While Tesla's Model S and Model X both gained a 75% "American-Made" rating on the 2017 index (having materials from both the US and Canada), its Model 3 car looks to take the leap into the 95% territory with new materials coming solely from the US, including its battery cells.
According to a 2017 Time Magazine article, Tesla was "the only automaker that assembled 100% of its U.S.-sold cars domestically [in 2016] - And only three other companies - Jeep, Cadillac and Dodge - broke 80%."
Not only is production heading towards 100% American-made, but Tesla has actively sought to hire veterans.
Arnnon Geshuri, VP of Human Resources at Tesla, stated that they "want to be known throughout the veteran community as a great place to work," and that veterans are "a great source of talent for Tesla."
Ted Daywait, CEO of VetJobs, praised Tesla's initiative:
"They have a good reputation. They hire veterans who can talk to other veterans. There is a language in the military, and having someone who can speak the lingo is important."
Tesla's VP of Production, Greg Reichow, says that veterans "know how to lead teams, focus teams and function on teams, and they have incredible integrity and discipline."
Tesla even works around deployment schedules and makes the transition of coming back to work from deployment as simple and seamless as possible.
Megan Gates, an industrial engineering technician at Tesla and member of the National Guard, said the company was very helpful when she was activated for two years. Tesla held her job open for her.
“I spent two years living in barracks repairing equipment and supporting returning units,” Gates said. “But Tesla kept in touch with me, and the company made the transition back super easy. I came straight back to work.”
5.3 million square feet (soon to be 10). 370 acres of land. 500,000 cars a year. Over 10,000 employees. All of this in one factory in Freemont, California. It's one of the largest buildings on earth, and it's getting bigger. Tesla is moving 1,500 employees from their headquarters in Palo Alto to the Fremont facility as it expands over the next few years.
During a recent conference call between Elon Musk and financial analysts, Musk stated that he "sees a path to Tesla producing up to 1 million cars per year in Fremont," according to Electrek.
While Fremont manufactures the vehicles, Tesla's new Gigafactory in Nevada manufactures the battery packs.
Currently under construction, this Gigafactory will only strengthen Tesla's "Made in America" empire. More jobs. More domestic capabilities. More attention to and competition within automotive factories around the country.
Tesla states that they, along with Panasonic (a partner in battery cell production) will hire "several thousand local employees and at peak production, the Gigafactory will directly employ 6,500 people and indirectly create between 20,000 and 30,000 additional jobs in the surrounding regions."
Even for the European market, all Tesla cars are built and tested in Fremont. They are then disassembled and shipped overseas to be reassembled.
Surprisingly enough, Tesla spends $0 on advertising. For them, it's all about word-of-mouth. Along with its innovative and high-demand technology, boasting that "100% American-Made" stamp will continue to be a huge marketing tool for Tesla and a sure selling-point for US consumers with hopes to support the domestic economy.
Tesla is set to become America's best-selling electric car after only a decade of production, and US-based manufacturing will only surge.
* Proheat is a supplier of heating elements for Tesla's Palo Alto manufacturing facility.