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GloboCars: THE NEXT CENTURY : SIDE TRIPS : What's Domestic? What's Foreign?

March 01, 1994|JAMES GERSTENZANG | Times staff writer

* Starting Oct. 1, a new form of sticker shock may afflict purchasers of new automobiles and trucks in the United States.

In addition to window stickers listing price and anticipated gasoline mileage, vehicles will be required to display a sticker providing information about the points of origin of the car or truck, and its parts.

Is that all-American convertible really all-American? The sticker should tell the tale.

Under a law passed in 1992, the list must include the city and state or country where the vehicle was assembled, the place where the engine and transmission were built and the percentage of parts built in the United States and Canada or elsewhere.

It should be relatively easy for a car buyer to discover, for example, that the engine of a car that has caught his or her eye was built in South Korea, the transmission was assembled in Japan, 40% of the overall parts were made in the United States, 35% were built in Mexico and they all came together at a factory in Canada.

The domestic-content labeling proposal was originally supported by the United Automobile Workers and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.). The American Automobile Manufacturers Assn. signed on, too.

Without such regulations, said Steve Collins, the association's director of economics and international affairs, "there was no uniform basis by which to judge various claims of domestic content."

But critics, particularly those representing foreign manufacturers, remain unconvinced, claiming that the requirements give preferential treatment to U.S. car makers in the calculation and could mislead buyers.

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