The traditional argument for buying an American-made automobile has been patriotic.

Support your country and its workers by buying a vehicle made here. That argument, as Bloomberg noted, plays strongly on a sense of nationalism and the notion that some industries like the Detroit-based automotive industry are integral to this country’s long-term financial stability.

The oppositional argument says simply, buy what’s best. If it happens to be American, great. Until recently, however, American-made automobiles have rarely been “best.” Foreign-made cars have been, in general, more fuel efficient, more environmentally friendly and longer lasting.

Related: Is Tesla's Elon Musk Channeling Henry Ford?

That generalization could be changing, according to CarsDirect, which compared foreign-made automobiles with those made in America in four distinct areas:

Quality

Although the overall quality of foreign-made cars was still considered superior to those made in America, major rating organizations like Consumer Reports have touted a number of American-made cars, especially those made by Ford (NYSE: F) as equal or superior to many made overseas.

In addition, in 2013 JD Powers rated the General Motors (NYSE: GM) Buick above Toyota (NYSE: TM) and equal to Jaguar, a division of Tata Motors (NYSE: TTM), according to Cars Direct.

Styling

Along with quality, the styling of American-made cars has improved greatly in recent years. General Motors’ Chevy Camaro, Ford’s Mustang and the Chrysler Dodge Challenger were cited as examples of automobiles that have received big style upgrades of late.

Price

Price used to be the haven of foreign-made cars, mostly due to the availability of cheaper labor and materials. As the economy has turned around, American cars have actually, in many cases, proven to be less expensive than their foreign counterparts are.

More importantly, American carmakers have realized that large, expensive gas-guzzlers were no longer the way to win the hearts (and pocketbooks) of average Americans.

Fuel Efficiency

From the California-made all-electric (albeit still quite expensive) Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) that uses no gas, to a number of gas-electric hybrids, to many newer, gas-only American-made automobiles, American carmakers have finally jumped on the ‘green’ bandwagon.

Foreign cars, in general, are still more fuel efficient, but to the relief of many fans of American-made cars, no longer embarrassingly so.

Best American Automobiles

Consumer Reports’ most recent listing of best American vehicles highlighted 13 key categories and the American-made vehicle that ranked highest in that category.

According to CR, five Fords were top-rated among American vehicles, including the Ford C-Max hybrid wagon, Ford Focus, Ford Fiesta, Ford Mustang and Ford Escape.

General Motors had four vehicles highly placed in their respective categories. They included the Chevrolet Malibu, Impala and Silverado truck along with the Buick Enclave.

Chrysler netted three entries including the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Durango and Chrysler Town & Country minivan.

The newcomer to the American market, Tesla, snagged the luxury car top spot with a nearly perfect score of 99.

American-Made Or Not?

Most people realize that when it comes to automobiles “Made in America” doesn’t always mean “100 percent made in America.” American University’s Kogod School of Business tried to help untangle "where is it really made" mess with its “Made in America Automotive Index.”

Based on the 2014 Index, if you wanted to buy the most “American made” American vehicle, you would buy a Ford F-series pickup truck or a General Motors Chevrolet Corvette. Both brands received a score of 87.5 (on a 100-point scale).

At the time of this writing, Jim Probasco had no position in any mentioned securities.

© 2014 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.


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