What's "American" About Chrysler?

A blog about business and economics.
Feb. 3 2014 9:38 AM

What's "American" About Chrysler?

An office full of people who report to another office in Europe

Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

It's worth dwelling a bit on the fact that the Bob Dylan "Is there anything more American than America?" ad is an ad for Chrysler, which is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fiat (a.k.a. Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino) an Italian company. So what's so American about it?

One could say that Chrysler cars are American because they're made in America. But they make Volkswagens in Chattanooga, Tenn., and BMWs in South Carolina and Mercedes in Alabama, but those are definitely "German cars." Although, as it turns out the Germans tend to focus their North American manufacturing efforts on SUVs—a very American kind of vehicle. Nissan is increasingly making its cars in Mexico, and their CEO is French (though he was born in Brazil), but it's a Japanese company. Globalization and all that.


It's interesting, at any rate, how different kinds of firms play up their alleged nationalities in different ways and for different purposes. Chrysler evidently hopes that American customers will take some pride in the idea of an "American" car. But you also get some different strategies, like the way Ikea plays up its Swedish origins in the global marketplace, trading on an ideal of Nordic friendliness and practicality. You could easily imagine (Danish) Lego trying something similar, but it doesn't. Just as German-owned luxury car brands trade on German people's reputation for precision. But Lexus and Acura don't really seem to me to trade on roughly similar stereotypes about Japan.*

*Correction, Feb. 3, 2014: An earlier version of this post misspelled the name of automaker Acura.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.



Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.


The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Lifetime Didn’t Find the Steubenville Rape Case Dramatic Enough. So They Added a Little Self-Immolation.

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Sept. 19 2014 6:22 PM Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.