) -- Our country is obsessed with cars, so it should not be surprising that often our cars define us.
In terms of identity,
Chevrolet is America itself, along with baseball, hot dogs and apple pie. And
, now headed by a rock star CEO, is newly chic.
The stereotypes have it that Californians love imports; moms and dads drive minivans; hippies drove VW vans and rednecks drive pickup trucks.
Also, what we drive can be closely aligned with how we vote -- but we'll get to that later.
review of 2010 retail vehicle buying in each of the 50 states provided an opportunity to comb through some
about our retail vehicle buying habits.
Among the conclusions: We truly do have a national vehicle. That is Ford's F-Series truck (above), which is the No. 1 selling vehicle in 35 of the 50 states.
We also discovered several other revealing trends. In some cases, these trends enabled us to characterize entire states. In other cases, they just made us wonder ... Read on.
Nissan Altima + The Silver State
Nevada is the only state where the
Altima mid-sized sedan is the top-selling vehicle for retail buyers. In fact, Nissan Altima is in the top five in only three other states: it ranks No. 3 in Mississippi and Tennessee and No. 4 in Connecticut.
Nissan spokesman Scott Vazin said the brand is number one in Las Vegas, the biggest market in Nevada, and Altima is the top-selling vehicle there, making Altima the best-selling vehicle in the state.
During 2010, Altima sold about 2,000 units in Nevada. It was followed there by Ford's F-Series, the
Camry, Toyota Corolla and Dodge Ram.
Michigan Is Big Three Country
Michigan, the nation's auto capital, seems to have its own unique list of favorites.
We're not at all surprised to see that all five of the top retail vehicles in Michigan are made by the Detroit Three -- we saw
But it is a bit of a stunner to see that the list includes the
Town & Country minivan (above), which is not among the top five in any other state. Another top-five Michigan vehicle, the Chevrolet Malibu, also rarely shows up on the lists, although it is No. 3 in Indiana.
In Michigan in 2010, the Ford Fusion was the No. 1 retail vehicle, selling about 20,000 units. It was followed by Malibu, F Series, Town & Country and Ford Escape.
According to TrueCar analyst Jesse Toprak, "Fusion and Malibu are the domestic answers to Camry and Corolla," while Town & Country is the only domestic minivan. "Ford doesn't have a minivan anymore and GM doesn't have one, so if you want to buy a domestic minivan, that's the only choice," he said.
Both social pressure and economic incentive dictate that Michiganders buy U.S. cars produced by Michigan-based companies. As an economic factor, Toprak notes that "the population of people connected to these companies is so big, so thousands of employees and their friends and families can get employee discounts."
Where the Toyota Camry Sells Well ...
Now let's talk cars and politics.
In seven states, all five of the top-selling retail vehicles are made by Japanese manufacturers. Here we will point out that all seven of these states voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election. You can draw your own conclusion. Perhaps it will be along the lines of: import cars/president born in undisclosed location/wine/cheese/NPR earned its entrapment/fluoridation of our water supply.
All we can say is that people in highly-populated states sure drive a lot of imports. Imports account for the top five vehicles in three of the four most highly populated states: California, where
Civic is No. 1; New York, where Accord is No. 1; and Florida, where Corolla is No. 1.
New England is also import country. In Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Camry is No. 1, while in Connecticut, Accord tops the list. Oddly, in Connecticut, Nissan and Subaru have vehicles in the top five -- but Toyota has none.
Finally, in Hawaii, Tacoma is the No. 1 vehicle and two other Toyotas are also in the top five. Of course, Hawaii was an Obama state. We won't comment further on this point, except to note that we have full confidence in the integrity of Hawaii's auto registration documentation process.
Regarding the predilection of people in densely-populated states to prefer small cars, Toprak said Honda and Toyota benefit from strong brand images as well as fuel efficiency and reliability, even with Toyota's recent problems.
"In those states people drive a lot of miles and spend a lot of time in their cars," Toprak said. "They want something efficient and reliable and Japanese cars are known for those attributes. Also, people buy cars based on image, and
these brands' image is stronger in the metro areas than in the middle of the country."
By the way, Washington, D.C., is another place where imports rule, not surprisingly since it is a major urban area without a rural component. Honda Civic is No. 1, and the city is the only place in the U.S. where a Volkswagen vehicle makes the top-five list.
Perhaps this helps to explain why Volkswagen plans a big push in the U.S.? Its Jetta was No. 5 in D.C, with several hundred units sold.
Pickup Country, Where Chevy Silverado Ranks No. 2
Now let us take a look at some of the trends in pickup country.
As we said, F-Series is clearly our national vehicle, which means that the Chevrolet Silverado is perennially second-best, kind of like the
Brooklyn Dodgers from 1941 through 1956. In fact, Silverado is No. 2 to F-Series in 20 states.
However Silverado ranks first in four states: Arkansas, Iowa, Maine and North Dakota.
(By the way, the Brooklyn Dodgers beat the Yankees once in the seven World Series in which they met.)
Also of note: Wyoming and New Mexico are the only states where the five top selling vehicles all pickup trucks.
However, in Alaska, Idaho and Montana, the top five vehicles include four pickup trucks and one Subaru, either an Outback or a Forrester.
In case you were wondering, four of these five pickup-heavy states went for John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. (New Mexico did not.)
If we expand this list to include the 12 states where all five-top selling vehicles are either pickup trucks or SUVs or crossovers -- that is, states where no car is in the top five vehicles -- then we have an 8-4 McCain/Obama split.The list then includes Obama states Colorado, Maine and Vermont.
Hyundai Sonata Is Fast-Rising
The Hyundai Sonata makes the top five list in just three states.
It is No. 4 in Florida with about 20,000 units, No. 3 in Illinois and fourth in Utah.
But Hyundai is a fast-rising brand. Hyundai "is grabbing a lot of market share in a lot of states, from both Camry and Accord," said Toprak, who called Sonata "the Camry Killer." The car "will pop up on more lists as we go forward," he said.
-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte
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