DETROIT TheStreet) -- Thanks to the introduction of the new Camry, an old debate has taken on new life. As they introduced the 2012 model last month, Toyota ( TM) executives touted the car's status as the auto industry's "most American-made car" on the influential list published each year by Cars.com, a Web site with car-buying advice. "Thank you for your tremendous dedication and for building the industry's most American-made car," CEO Akio Toyoda told workers at the company's Georgetown, Ky. plant.
"Our team members are very proud of the fact that not only has the Camry been the most popular car in America for going on 10 years -- it's also the most American made," added Wil James, president of the Kentucky plant. "More than 80% of the parts that go into the Camry come from American suppliers so this vehicle alone is responsible for a lot of jobs across the United States." The location of parts production, referred to as "domestic content," is a key criteria when Cars.com compiles its annual "American Made Index," ranking the "most American" cars. But the ranking is also based on where the car is assembled and sales volume. The last criteria, sales volume, is a point of contention, because it can lead to such counter-intuitive choices as ranking cars manufactured by Japanese firms ahead of cars manufactured by an iconic American firm. In its most recent list, issued in June 2011, Cars.com ranked Camry as the most American car, with Honda ( HMC) Accord coming in second. Third was a GM ( GM) car, the Chevrolet Malibu, while the Ford ( F) Explorer was fourth and the Honda Odyssey was fifth. "In today's global economy, there's not an easy way to determine just how American a car is," said Patrick Olsen, Cars.com editor in chief, in a prepared statement issued when the survey was released. "Most cars built in the U.S., for example, are assembled using at least some parts that come from somewhere else. Additionally, many U.S. automakers assemble vehicles in Canada and Mexico, while foreign automakers have opened plants on U.S. soil. Our index is another resource that car buyers can use to help guide their purchase decision."