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Column: Buying American a tricky proposition

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I am one of those people responsible for the huge jump in car sales last year. Still, I get no respect because the vehicle wasn't American-made, but a Honda Fit, built in Japan.

Sorry. On second thought, I'm not sorry. I would have preferred to buy an American-made car, and for years I had hoped Honda would start building the Fit in the U.S., particularly at its Marysville, Ohio, plant. That way I could have been a Buy American/Buy Ohioan advocate.

Alas, Honda doesn't do that yet. I pondered competing brands, but I already owned a Fit, and it, well, fits my preferences and lifestyle perfectly. With my lifestyle, I want a trouble-free vehicle—which I have gotten from Honda—that can haul the stuff I carry around and still get good mileage.

My daughter was happy for this, since I gave her my 2007 Fit. It replaced a 2002 vehicle that was fast deteriorating, and for which the manufacturer once refused to honor its much-ballyhooed warranty. Let's just say the nameplate on the car looks something like Honda's, only drunkenly leaning to the right.

But I digress.

Some of my friends railed against me for buying a foreign-made car, to which I countered, “Yeah, well, where do you think lots of those parts and the tires come from in your car, the U.S.?” I also like to rebut charges of being un-American by pointing out I own a Ford F-150 XLT SuperCrew, which probably was made in the U.S. Or maybe Mexico, I dunno.

That eight-cylinder 4x4 monster's job is to pull boats, haul lots of junk and contribute to gas stations' prosperity. It does all that well. It also will help me aid the tire industry this year when I replace its tires for $800 or so. I know enough not to drive on worn tires.

I may sound like your typical U.S. citizen who talks Buy American but practices Buy What I Want. However, I do pay attention to origins of goods. All things—meaning quality and reliability—being equal, I am willing to cough up more bucks to get something American made. There are some items, food in particular, that I will pass on rather than get that bargain grown or caught in Asia.

When it comes to cars, though, I like to stick with what has proved to be successful. So I passed on the Ford Fiesta, much to my mother's dismay, she being a Ford stockholder. A vocal one, at that.

I was raised in a Ford family because my father spent his career there, and I am genetically programmed not to buy General Motors products. So no Chevy Sonic for me.

My hope is that 200,000 miles from now Honda is making Fits in Ohio, so I can be a good American/Ohioan when I replace my current car. That might silence my friends as they eat Thailand-harvested shrimp while lounging in their Bangladesh-made shirts and Vietnamese-manufactured shoes.

Noga is a contributing editor to RPN and its former editor. He can be reached at elnmails@yahoo.com.