Data Dive on Gas Price-Related Google Searches

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

TTAC commentator Holydonut shares some of his time with us:

I don’t know if you’ve tried out the Google Trends tool to see search and news activity on for some auto-related searches. First: I just put in GM, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Toyota, and Nissan to see their trends [ click here]. And another fun one . . . I compared searches of “gas prices” and “mpg” to some automaker names [ click here]. I filtered the lists to show only USA region searches. Searching for “Ford” is misleading since the name is so common that you get several non-auto “Ford” topics all mashed together. If you go global, then Toyota and Honda become regular names of people, so it over-states the results as well. But for the selfish USA-only view, it seems mostly valid. Unfortunately this also means comparing a search for HUMMER versus Prius is invalid. The rankings themselves against each other aren’t very relevant, but the fun stuff lies in the change of the changes in the trend due to known events. Some interesting takeaways:

1) Normalized search activity trends for Toyota and Honda tend to increase versus a stagnant GM/Chevrolet. Of course the Japanese were passed by searches for GM only one very brief period in the last 12 months due to the BK. So even though GM is in the news much more frequently, the individuals in the public are increasing their interest in Toyota over time at a faster clip.

2) Post bankruptcy, search interest in the General and Chrysler reverted to pre-BK levels . . . only to spike a bit during the Clunker fad.

3) If you view the “Rank By” lists at the bottom and filter by GM and Chrysler, you’ll see that the only people who care about Chrysler and Chevrolet are in Detroit and the Midwest. If you change the “Rank By” criteria to a car brand outside of Detroit, you’ll find that Chrysler is a non-factor in any region of the USA where people tend to search for BMW or Lexus.

4) When the USA has increased interest about gas prices and mpg, they also increased interest for Honda and Toyota. But for Chevrolet, the interest was flat.

5) Replace the companies in the gas-prices search with Chrysler, Nissan, Subaru, Mazda, Lexus, BMW, and Mercedes and you’ll see they’re flat as well during the gas-crunch. The biggest red flag is that that Nissan, Subaru, and Mazda have a problem where the public doesn’t perceive them as a brand that gets them better MPG even though they’re “efficient Japanese.” At least Mazda and Subaru are niche. But what of Nissan?

6) Replace a car company in the gas-prices search with “hybrid” or “Prius” and marvel at the spike in interest.

Fun stuff…

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Njoneer Njoneer on Aug 24, 2009

    Thanks to the Outback and Crocodile Dundee ads, non-enthusiasts in the US think Subaru is Australian.

  • JoeEgo JoeEgo on Aug 24, 2009
    Very interesting, but not surprising Surely, but having facts to point to keeps this from becoming some sort of urban myth / conventional wisdom.
  • Craiger I love the people who call Musk an imbecile. As if they could even get an interview for a job at one of his companies.
  • Lou_BC I'm waiting for Tesla to make a pickup!
  • Lou_BC Autograph? Turn Up the Radio?
  • Oberkanone Were these available with diesel?At $3700 this Volvo presents nicer than other vehicles I see at this asking price.
  • V16 Lobbyists, not a Senator from Missouri are the real power brokers in Washington.Money, the mother's milk of politics dictate every outcome.