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Q: What is a Foreign Car?

December 17, 2013 12:53 PM

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Trying to define what a foreign car is can be a little tricky. The list of carmakers in different countries is quite long, and the relationships between foreign and domestic manufacturers have become blurred because of mergers and complicated partnership agreements. Sometimes, a foreign car manufacturer may choose to produce parts for a certain model in its own country, but the parts are assembled in the United States. Some parts may be manufactured in the United States but assembled in another country.

Strictly speaking, a foreign car is a car that has its parts made and assembled outside the country. Many foreign cars are more expensive than those made in the United States. Shipping an assembled car often can be more expensive than shipping the parts and having them assembled locally. The risk of damage during shipping also contributes to cost. However, these imported cars attract shoppers because they bear the features, performance and style that different foreign carmakers are known for.

At least nine foreign car companies manufacture millions of cars every year in America. The cars are either exported or sold within the country. This makes identification of a foreign car even more challenging. Because of this, differentiating a foreign car from an American car may be impossible.

During the early years of the automobile industry, problems arose from cars that were imported into the country. The unavailability of spare parts created issues with vehicle repairs. When a foreign car needed a component replaced, it often had to be shipped from the country where the car originated. This process also made the part more expensive and delayed repairs. Today, spare parts for cars made by foreign companies are abundant because of assembly lines inside the country. However, the availability of spare parts can still be a problem for some less popular foreign cars.

Cars do not last forever. Like all machines, they are susceptible to wear and tear. The need to consider car servicebefore buying a vehicle from a foreign manufacturer should be part of the purchasing decision. In most cases, servicing of a foreign car is best left to professionals who are certified by the carmaker. Because some devices in a car can be unique to a manufacturer, qualified technicians are knowledgeable about these mechanisms and can repair or replace them more quickly and efficiently. If spare parts need to be ordered from sources outside the country, certified service centers often have close relationships with distributors to speed delivery. However, if a dealership or qualified repair shop for your foreign car is located far from your home, travel time and costs can be prohibitive.

Generally, however, when choosing a car, the same decision points should apply regardless of whether it is foreign or domestic. For most consumers, the important factors to consider are your needs and the purchase cost, as well as quality, reliability, safety, warranties, operating costs (e.g., fuel, insurance, and maintenance), luxury, environmentally conscious features, and how the car makes you feel.

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