After crossing Georgia and part of Tennessee – the State of Davy Crockett, Aretha Franklin and Dolly Parton (of course) – we have now landed in Nashville, the country music capital of the world. Having grown up in France, I am not overly familiar with this music genre but listening to Sirius XM’s “The Highway” satellite radio station all day long while driving had me catch up on lost time in a flash.
Full report below.
Current country music favourites are Kenny Chesney (American Kids), Aaron Lewis (Endless Summer), Luke Bryant (Drink A Beer), Dierks Bentley (How Am I Doin’) and The Cadillac Three (Party Like You). I also had the privilege to attend the 6pm show at the legendary Bluebird Café which caught me by surprise with an intimate atmosphere, the songwriters playing right in the middle of the audience. For those of you in the know, the night I was there John Pierce, Justin Lantz, Corey Crowder and Cale Dodds were playing – or rather joking around most of the time while taking turns singing. Unforgettable night.
So which cars do Nashville country music songwriters and hipsters buy? Based on the areas I visited (Downtown, West End and Hilsboro Road), rather different ones from the rest of the regions I have traversed so far. Logically, in a more urban environment we have more passenger cars and less pick-up trucks, with the most popular vehicles in town being (in this order) the Nissan Altima, Honda Accord – not seen at these levels since New York, Ford F-Series and Toyota Camry.
Yes, I did write the Nissan Altima was the most frequent new vehicle I spotted in Nashville, ahead of all pickup trucks. Similarly to yesterday in Georgia for the Kia Optima, this could simply be because it is manufactured close-by in Canton, Mississippi. There is another Nissan plant located in Tennessee (in Smyrna) and models being spat out of this plant are also significantly more frequent in Nashville than they were up to now: the Infiniti JX, Nissan Pathfinder, Murano, Maxima, ( the now defunct) Altima coupé and most interestingly the Leaf: I saw more in Nashville than in the entire trip combined so far (including New York!).
But there are a couple of models with an even more striking surge in popularity in Nashville: the Hero in Town is the Chevrolet Traverse and I have to confess that I did not know that car very well before landing here. This is fixed now as I had many opportunities to spot it all around town. Logically, its “twins” the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia, using the same platform and very similar in size, are also extremely popular in town.
Other extremely popular vehicles in Nashville are large MPVs: the Nissan Quest is everywhere, followed closely by the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, and most taxis are Dodge Grand Caravan. Would Nashville be a big soccer mum car market? Arguably the Toyota 4Runner, never more popular so far than here in Nashville could also fit this category. Small sedans also are disproportionately successful here, led by the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, VW Jetta and Hyundai Elantra.
One brand stands out in Nashville that I had not seen much before: Swedish carmaker Volvo, with the S60 sedan seemingly the most popular followed by the XC60 and XC90 SUVs. Cadillac SUVs also seem to be much more popular here than they have been so far in this trip. Other over-performing models in Nashville include the Nissan Juke, Ford Escape and Lexus HS, with the Hummer brand getting noticed as well here and for the first time on my itinerary.
Finallly, Nashville carbuyers seem to have had a (masochistic?) love for late Pontiac models, including the horrible-looking Aztek and the G3, a rebadged Chevrolet Aveo… That’s it for Nashville! Next stop is Memphis, still in Tennessee.
Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia and writes a blog dedicated to tracking car sales around the globe: BestSellingCarsBlog