Last week NHTSA published a notice for data call to 21 automakers to fulfill the requirements of Title 49, Part 583 - Automobile Parts Content Labeling. The estimated cost to automakers to produce the data and create labels for the various car lines, $2.4M.
What information is required via Part 583?
- U.S./Canadian parts content. (Overall %, by value, of equipment on vehicles that originated in US/ Canada.)
- Major sources of foreign parts content. ( Names of countries other than U.S./Canada which contributed at least 15% of average overall %, by value to the carline and the %s attributable to each such country.)
- Final assembly point.
- Country of origin for the engine.
- Country of origin for the transmission.
NHTSA explains that these labels "serve as an aid to potential purchasers in the selection of new passenger motor vehicles by providing them with information about the value of the U.S./Canadian and foreign parts of each vehicle."
This label may have been a legitimate aid to America-loving car-buyers back when people spent day after day roaming dealer to dealer trying out the latest and greatest offerings from all the various automakers, but today car buyers do most of that browsing online.
When you're researching models via an automaker's website the parts content label isn't prominently displayed anywhere, and in many cases can only be found once you have a VIN and pull up the monroney label for that specific vehicle.
Seeing that most buyers show up at a dealer with a brand, and in many cases a model, already in mind it makes sense to integrate the parts content data more directly in the online space.
If the goal of this effort, or rather law, is to serve as an aid to car buyers, then automakers should be required to display the information on a vehicle's homepage.
While my depiction above is heavily embellished (i.e. Made in Canada) , as the Grand Caravan has plenty of US parts to include the engine, and the label does not include all the data as required by Part 583; you get the general idea. If consumers make their decision, at least at the brand level, using online tools, it only makes sense to ensure these "purchasing aids" are present at that time and in that space.
Another opportunity for Part 583 data to be made useful is via large car-buying sites like Cars.com and AutoTrader. They could offer filters for vehicles based on the percentage of U.S. content. Say you are looking to buy a midsized sedan, but want something that is "Made in America" – Cars.com could offer a filter that would eliminate all new models that are not within the specific user-defined threshold for percentage of U.S. content using a sidebar filter.
I do not support the requirements of Part 583. I think they are antiquated, but if the goal is to be an aid to the buyer this is what has to change. If not this whole process, because of changes in technology and buying behaviors, is a total waste of time and money.
What do you think? Should automakers be required to display vehicle content's country of origin more prominently? Without getting into "what is an American country" do you think these labels have any value?