By on October 18, 2012

After travelling to IranJapan, and Russia over the last week, let’s get back to our beloved United States this time to explore what the wealthiest Americans are buying rights now…

Can’t be bothered salivating over ‘what could have been’? No worries. You can discover the best-selling models in 169 countries and territories in my blog. Or look at a more normal view on the US market with the Top 277 best-selling models in the USA over the first 9 months 2012

Back to the rich.

Mercedes? Tick.

BMW? Tick.

Porsche? Tick.

Range Rover? Tick.

Makes-you-feel-better-about-being-filthy rich-Toyota Prius? Tick.

American brands? Say what?

The Mercedes E-Class is clearly the choice of the wealthy in the USA

* You can check out the Top 5 best-sellers in the 10 wealthiest US zip codes here *

I know you’ve always wondered what all those rich people were buying all this time because clearly, when you drove along Beverly Hills there weren’t many ‘Ford F-Series and Honda Civic’ around…

Wonder no more, it’s all here for you.

May I present the Top 5 best-sellers in the 10 wealthiest Zip codes in the USA (based on 2011 sales data).

Out of these 10 cities, 5 prefer a Mercedes with the E-Class coming up #1 in 4 cities and ranking within the Top 5 in no less than 8 cities….

The Toyota Prius ranks #1 in two cities (both in California) while the Mercedes S-Class, Jeep Wrangler, Range Rover Sport and VW Jetta each rank #1 in one city.

Note only two American cars appear in these 10 Top 5: the Jeep Grand Cherokee at #3 in 3 cities and the Jeep Wrangler at #1 in one.

The wealthiest city (or zip code) in the USA is Manhattan, New York. Interestingly the best-sellers in Manhattan are not that exclusive: the Mercedes E-Class is king of the island’s crowded streets ahead of the BMW X5 and Honda Accord with the Honda CR-V coming in at #5.

Fisher Island, a neighborhood of metropolitan Miami, Florida that is only accessible via private boat or ferry and whose notable residents include Andre Agassi, Julia Roberts and Oprah Winfrey, comes second with an average income of $1.5 million. Not a single car less than $50,000 manages to rank within the Top 5 best-sellers, with the $95,465 Mercedes S-Class leading the way ahead of the Mercedes E-Class, Range Rover Sport, BMW X5 and Porsche Panamera.

The third wealthiest zip code in the US is Downtown Chicago, Illinois, with humble tastes in automobiles: affordable, practical vehicles you would expect to see in every middle-class suburb are what you will find on the pricey urban streets of Chicago. No cars above $30,000 ranks within the Top 5, with the VW Jetta leader followed by the Honda CR-V and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The quaint wood-filled city of Atherton, California is nestled quietly between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean and is the 4th wealthiest zip code in the country. Silicon Valley tycoons, star athletes and politicians are among the city’s residents, and the only car under $50,000 ranking within the Top 5 is the Toyota Prius at #2, with the Porsche Panamera making an astounding appearance at #3…

* You can check out the Top 5 best-sellers in the 10 wealthiest US zip codes here *

Century City in California follows with an average income of $751,000. Situated east of Santa Monica and west of Beverly Hills, Century City is not exactly Hollywood, but it’s where a lot of Hollywood does business. Headquarters of the famous Creative Artists Agency (CAA), MGM, and 20th Century Fox are located here and the residents are very fond of the Toyota Prius, with the Mercedes E-Class also very popular.

New Vernon in New Jersey comes up 6th with the Mercedes E-Class, BMW 328 and Jeep Grand Cherokee most popular.

Greenwich, Connecticut is the home of Mel Gibson and Tommy Hilfiger and the only city among the Top 10 wealthiest to crown an American car: the Jeep Wrangler, with the Jeep Grand Cherokee coming in at #3.

Only Mercedes owners are allowed in Palm Beach, Florida: the Top 3 best-sellers there are the E-Class, S-Class and C-Class…

In Medina, Washington, a town where the majority of households is comprised of families, the Range Rover Sport reigns supreme, ahead of the Toyota Sienna, Lexus RX and Honda Odyssey.

Finally in Ross, California, the Toyota Prius leads ahead of the Mercedes E-Class

* You can check out the Top 5 best-sellers in the 10 wealthiest US zip codes here *

Matt Gasnier, based in Sydney, Australia, runs a blog named Best Selling Cars, dedicated to counting cars all over the world.

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23 Comments on “Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: What The Wealthiest Americans Buy...”


  • avatar

    Century City is an interesting place to list since it has hardly any residents; it’s almost exclusively massive high rise office buildings.

    It seems surprising Beverly Hills isn’t at par with Century City. Perhaps businesspeople who are listing their corporate headquarters as their home are skewing the scale.

    So who buys the most extremely rare cars such as Bentleys and Ferraris? I would expect Palm Beach to be way up there, since I see them there all the time …

    D

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      A brief glance at the Google satellite image for Century City shows three enormous multi-unit residential properties, and two single-family home residential neighborhoods. It looks like about 2/3 of the real estate is devoted to residential uses.

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    I was going to lie, steal and backstab my way to the top but if all I get is a Jetta it isn’t worth it.

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    The Jeep Wrangler is the only surprise here. Don’t they have paved roads in Greenwich, Conn?

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Jeep has been the domestic pick of the truly wealthy for at least thirty years. It used to be the Grand Wagoneer that that you’d see by the dozen at country clubs and prep schools, but they’ll buy Cherokees and CJs/Wranglers too. The appeal lasted through, what, four sets of Jeep brand owners? I think that products like the Patriot and Compass are exactly what it will take to make Jeep as welcome in Palm Beach and La Jolla as Cadillac is.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      That, the fuel economy, and the fact that I don’t actually need an off-road vehicle are the three biggest reasons I’m not likely to own a Jeep any time soon.

      I like jeeps quite a bit, otherwise. I like that they appear simple and optimized for a task. The sheer amount of modifications that Wrangler owners do is impressive, and I really appreciate that kind of empowered “hacker” owner’s community.

      But, I grew up rolling my eyes at those people who drive their Jeep Grand Cherokee 4×4 to the mall and back, and I really don’t want to ever ever ever be mistaken for one of them. Ever. If I ever do own a Jeep, you won’t see me in it on public roads unless it’s the only way to get the thing off road.

  • avatar
    wsn

    There is a big difference in “the wealthiest Americans” and “what sells in the top 10 wealthiest zip codes”.

    1) Rich people don’t necessarily live in a rich zip code. There is certainly substantial overlap, but nonetheless not close enough to be accurate. For instance, some of the richest live on rural multi-acre estates. Are they even included?

    2) Cars sold in a rich zip code may not be sold to people living there. For instance, downtown Chicago is rich. Maybe the luxury car dealerships there have such advantage in inventory that people living elsewhere would come in and buy.

    So, if you want to find out what really do rich people buy, the only sure way is to get client information from dealerships. But that’s pretty tough to do.

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean

      @wsn, agree with your first point, but I believe you meant ‘wealthy’ instead of ‘rich’ in terms of people. As in what Chris Rock famously stated, ‘Oprah Windfrey got money, Bill Gates got wealth. You think if old Bill woke up tomorrow morning with Oprah’s money in his account, he wouldn’t throw himself out a window, you’re crazy!’

      Wealth is a completely different state of mind and agreeably a different zip code; for most, including some who ran for gummint office, it means a APO address in Switzerland.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      This list has to be based on registration addresses, not sales locations. There are no car dealerships in Atherton. There are no retail businesses at all. Even the Ferrari/Maserati shop is just over the border in Redwood City.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      “Rich people don’t necessarily live in a rich zip code”

      No, but the converse *IS* true. “You must be this rich to live in this zip code” does hold to a statistically significant degree. Look on zillow or realtor.com is you don’t believe me.

      • 0 avatar
        msquare

        It probably sounded good when Chris said it, but Oprah certainly has a lot of wealth. Her Harpo Productions isn’t exactly a fly-by-night operation. The bulk of Bill Gates’ “wealth” is on paper, as in stock. If he cashed out of Microsoft, he wouldn’t get nearly as much in return because he’d flood the market and drive prices down.

        Also have to wonder how many rich folks actually register cars in their own names rather than their corporations. I would believe Gates might have a Wrangler to putter around his estate, but does he go to work in it?

        If there’s anything to be gleaned from this, it’s that people in these locales don’t necessarily splurge on cars. Their homes are expensive enough.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Is downtown Chicago the only zip code on this list with decent public transportation?

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      *cough* Manhattan *cough*

      Zip codes in Chicago are very small geographically. I would imagine Manhattan to be the same. Still, in the expensive high-rise I live in, the parking garage has a lot of Jettas and Grand Cherokees. Not quite so many of the other cars on the downtown Chicago list.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    LOLing, my keen eye for the obvious missed Manhattan

  • avatar
    RatherhaveaBuick

    This all excludes the wealthy car enthusiast who decides to spend his money on classic cars that have substance and character regardless of make or model, keep them nice and maintained and drive them knowing that they have the money to keep them on the road forever. (i.e. old Porsche, Ferrari, Vette, or ANYTHING old for that matter)

    If I had the money, I can’t imagine going to a new car dealership and throwing down $70k on a hideous BMW X5, I just think of ravaging Craigslist and Ebay for strange classic cars that have always stricken my fancy…but most of the rich (from those I know) need the newest and flashiest of everything, thus they go and plop down so much cash on a mediocre car (i.e Mercedes E-Class) because of the fancy badge…

    Oh well. “The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting drunk”

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      I think most of us would rather have something reliable while hauling the significant other and children around vice a “Hembley-Warbler” made in a shed in the Cotswolds.

      • 0 avatar
        RatherhaveaBuick

        Well considering the fact that these people are wealthy, I’d imagine they’d have more than one car if needed. Even so, there are more interesting choices in new cars than what these folks are buying.

        I’d imagine there are a lot of young buyers who get lots of money, and go straight to a BMW (so they can cut across 3 lanes of rush hour traffic at 90mph) but I don’t understand someone who works there whole life to get where they are and decides on an X5.

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    Looks like Jeep is still holding their own nicely among wealthy buyers. A market research study commissioned by Chrysler in 1987, shortly after taking over American Motors, showed that Grand Wagoneer buyers had the highest median household incomes of any domestic nameplate.

    The study also showed that the average Jeep owner also had 1-3 other cars in the family, and that those cars were more likely to be West German luxury brands than anything else. The fact that these buyers would gladly walk into a domestic showroom to do their SUV/4X4 shopping, but then go across town to the Mercedes, BMW, or Audi dealer for their car shopping was a never ending source of frustration for Chrysler for many years. The Eagle brand was created specifically to offer the sort of cars that Jeep buyers might like, so that Jeep-Eagle dealers could turn into a one stop vehicle shopping destination. Of course, it never worked out that way, since Chrysler never actually supported Eagle with the sorts of products they really needed to go after that sort of customer (the Premier ES Limited and Vision TSi probably came the closest).

  • avatar
    hubcap

    The flaws in the study have already been highlighted but is anybody surprised about the absence of American cars (not SUVs). Lincoln isn’t even on the radar and Cadillac, IMO, is finally starting to show some life. In fact the CTS-V and now the ATS are really the only two U.S. luxury cars I’d purchase.

    I do have to agree with Ratherhaveabuick. Some people buy purely for the badge/snob appeal. These people might have a richer ownership experience from owning something a bit more esoteric. Thing is… they really don’t care.


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