Is 'Buy American' Effort Out of Gas?

When it comes to your ride, what exactly does it mean to buy American?

When you think of American cars, Acuras, Hondas and BMWs might not come right to mind, but their manufacturers want you to know many of their models are made in the United States.

On the other hand, because of rising manufacturing costs at home, Ford (F), General Motors (GM) and DaimlerChrysler (DCX) have outsourced some production to plants outside the United States.

In addition, some manufacturers have teamed up to build certain models with a mix of U.S. and foreign parts.

Click in the video box at the top of this story to watch a report by FOX News’ Jeff Goldblatt.

"I'd prefer to buy things made here in this country if I could," new car buyer Donna Dixon says. Dixon is like many auto shoppers who say they want to support U.S. businesses.

A survey by car retailer Autobytel (search) concludes 61 percent of Americans prefer to buy domestic, yet it's difficult to determine what "buying American" really means in the auto world.

"Now buying American means you could choose a Honda, a Toyota or a Nissan," said Christian Wardlaw, an Autobytel analyst.

There are 14 auto plants in America owned by foreign companies, and the Detroit Big Three have about 70 plants outside the United States. The only way to know what you're buying is to read the label.

Said Stephen Collins of the Automotive Trade Policy Council (search ), "Congress passed a law about 10 years ago that said every car has to have a label on it, and that label has to say what is the domestic content.”

That label lists the percentage of parts and components made in North America.

Ford's average domestic content for its products sold in the United States is 87 percent, and Mitsubishi's is 31 percent.

Officials at the Big Three say they have a higher percentage of American parts, and unlike foreign competitors, their profits stay in the United States. But as automakers continue to do business abroad to cut costs, buying American may become increasingly difficult down the road.