Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Toyota Prius King Of California

Matt Gasnier
by Matt Gasnier

After traveling to Iran, Japan, and what cars the wealthiest Americans buy and hopping across the Caribbean Sea to land in Puerto Rico last week, I am now taking you to California.

Don’t feel like ‘California dreaming’ today? No worries. You can discover the best-selling models in 169 additional countries and territories in my blog. Or look at a more general view of the US market with the Top 277 best-selling models in the USA over the first 9 months 2012

Back to California.

In America’s biggest state, the 6 best-selling cars are Japanese and there are only two Americans in the Top 15…

The Toyota Prius is the best-selling car in California

You can check out the California Top 15 best-sellers and each segment’s Top 5 here.

We already know the US new car market is on fire in 2012 with registrations up 14.5 percent year-on-year after 9 months to 10,899,949 units. Well the Californian new car market does even better: it is up a huge 38 percent year-on-year in September to 165,422 registrations and 26 percent year-to-date at 1,245,700 – meaning California captures 11% of the US market and is larger than Italy or Australia.

Similarly to the Puerto Rican models ranking we explored a few of days ago, the best-selling models in California are Japanese…

Honda Civic

Whereas in the overall US ranking the Ford F-Series is by far the #1 vehicle, in California it only ranks #7 with just 1.5% market share, but is still the favourite US model. This means the Top 6 best-sellers are 100% Japanese! The Toyota Prius is the most popular car in the State with 46,380 sales and 3.7 percent share, followed by the Honda Civic at 43,143 and 3.5 percent and the Honda Accord at 39,027 and 3.1 percent.

California Top 7 best-sellers over 9 months 2012:

You can check out the California Top 15 best-sellers and each segment’s Top 5 here.

PosModel9m 2012%US1Toyota Prius46,3803.7%172Honda Civic43,1433.5%63Honda Accord39,0273.1%44Toyota Camry37,8883.0%25Toyota Corolla29,7432.4%76Honda CR-V22,4751.8%97Ford F-Series18,8621.5%1

You can check out the California Top 15 best-sellers and each segment’s Top 5 here.

The Toyota Camry, #2 overall in the US, ranks 4th in California at 37,888 units ahead of the Toyota Corolla/Matrix at 29,743 sales, making it 3 Toyotas in the Top 5. With the Honda CR-V at #6 and 22,475 sales, there are 3 Hondas in the Top 6. Below the Ford F-Series, there is one more Japanese model in the Top 10 – the Nissan Altima at one Korean – the Hyundai Sonata at #9 and one German – the VW Jetta at but no American model until the #15 spot (Chevrolet Silverado).

The Toyota Tacoma is #11 in California vs. #29 in the overall US ranking

Notice also the Toyota Tacoma at an excellent 11th spot and 2nd best-selling pick-up truck in the state after the F-Series, the BMW 3 Series up to #13 vs. #49 overall and the Mercedes C-Class up to #16 vs.

Scion tC

Further down, the Mercedes E-Class sells 11,369 units (or 25% of its overall US sales), the Honda Fit 7,735 (20%), the BMW 5 Series 7,487 (20% also), the Fiat 500 6,336 (19%), the Lexus IS 5,443 (26%), the Scion tC 3,764 (21%) and the Porsche 911 1,515 (23%).

You can check out the California Top 15 best-sellers and each segment’s Top 5 here.

Source: California New Car Dealers Association, AutoCount.

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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  • Stuki Stuki on Oct 22, 2012

    One thing the Prius have going for it is that, like for example Whole Foods food, it is "top of the line" at something, while still being relatively affordable. Hence, it allows status obsessed social climbers to drive the same car as "the movie stars" drive. Were they instead to focus on "fast" cars, or luxurious cars, their second rung financial status would be much more obvious. The same effect drove SUV sales in the 80s and 90s. Until automakers started tarting them up, putting the "it" models out of reach for those who previously could emulate the equestrian set on an commoners wage. Full size pickups is a class where the dynamic still works. The guy pumping gas can drive pretty much the same one that the guy who owns the oil company.

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    • Probert Probert on Oct 23, 2012

      The difference being that the Prius is a tech powerhouse and the suvs were a cynical safety/emissions avoidance exercise that resulted i vehicles dangerous to both the drivers and other vehicles. They were also a dead end that nearly killed the auto industry in America. I'll shut up now.

  • Stevelovescars Stevelovescars on Oct 22, 2012

    As a resident of California for the past 15 years and a product of the midwest, I'll weigh in with my less than scientific theories about the state's buying habits: 1- Gas prices are high. If you don't believe that a gas tax would affect consumer vehicle buying habits, take this as leading indicator. Mandating fuel-economy standards without creating an incentive for consumers to buy fuel-efficient cars doesn't make much sense to me... or as in this case, creating a disincentive for buying a gas guzzler. 2- A general focus on environmental issues. Don't get me wrong, California is a huge state and very culturally/politically varied, Don't forget, the state is the single largest agricultural producer in the U.S. as well as a maker of reality TV shows and web startups. It ranges from San Francisco urban to central-valley small town, but generally-speaking, a lot of people here do seem to be concerned about their ecological footprint perhaps a bit more than in some other parts of the U.S. In L.A., long-time residents can directly see, feel, and smell the improvements that decades of environmental policies have created. A Prius isn't necessarily a political statement. It may just be seen as another decision along the lines of recycling your garbage and taking shorter showers. 3- Cost of living is high, at least when it comes to housing. A family income of $150k in Silicon Valley will barely allow you to buy a home... and those homes are much smaller than what one would find for a third of the price in, say, Dallas. All else equal, a family here spends a higher percentage of their income on housing, leaving less for a car, the gas to power it, and the insurance to cover it. I guess my point is that when a Civic or Corolla offers nearly the same space and nearly the same comfort as a Camry or Accord for less money... gets better fuel economy and costs less to insure, why not? You don't really need that V6 over a 4 cylinder to sit in traffic. 4- Cars don't rust out here. Not sure how this affects the new car market, but used cars are a much more viable alternative than in, say, Detroit where I grew up watching my dad's Buicks rot away every few years. Perhaps the affect is that people here still see 2-decade-old Civics and Corollas driving around and it's taken longer for the improvements the Domestics have made to reflect in public opinion?

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    • Willyam Willyam on Oct 23, 2012

      Agreed, thank you. Excellent post. I wound up staying in the midwest, and recently wound up in Tulsa. Here, every one of my neighbors has a full-size truck in the driveway. I'm pretty sure they aren't cash purchases, and most are kept really shiny (though they're too big for the garages), which I'm guessing means they sit in office parks rather than towing horse trailers. I couldn't find a state listing for sales here, but the trucks are in the top 5 most stolen, so that probably means we're F-series country. Housing here isn't dirt cheap, but you get a lot of sq feet for the money. Fuel costs are the cheapest in 'merica, but I am starting to see Prii and Insights on a more frequent basis. The jobs being much more in the city seem to have increased the long-distance commuters, but that's a seat-of-the-pants guess. We're seeing an influx of Californians who can buy a much larger house and have cash left over even after taking a loss on property out there. I'd often wondered if I could find a way to still fund a retirement if I'd moved west, but I'm getting the feeling that would have been a no. Unless I'd have come up with my own Pets.com.

  • Jeff S I am not a fan of Tesla and they were niche vehicles but it seems that they have become more common. I doubt if I get an EV that it would be a Tesla. The electrical grid will have to be expanded because people over the long run are not going to accept the excuse of the grid can't handle people charging their EVs.
  • AMcA The '70 Continentals and Town Cars may have been cousins to the standard body Fords and Mercurys, they didn't have to be disguised, because they had unique, unbelievably huge bodies of their own. Looking at the new 1970 interior, I'd say it was also a cost savings in sewing the seat. Button tufted panels like the 1969 interior had require a lot of sewing and tufting work. The 1970 interior is mostly surface sewing on a single sheet of upholstery instead of laboriously assembled smaller pieces. FINALLY: do I remember correctly that the shag carpet shown under these cars was a Photoshop? They didn't really go so peak '70s as to photograph cars on shag carpets, did they?
  • Inside Looking Out Toyota makes mass market cars. Their statement means that EVs are not mass market yet. But then Tesla managed to make mass market car - Mode; 3. Where I live in CA there are more Tesla Model 3s on streets than Corollas.
  • Ltcmgm78 A lot of dirt must turn before there's an EV in every driveway. There must be a national infrastructure plan written by other than politicians chasing votes. There must be reliable batteries that hopefully aren't sourced from strategic rivals. There must be a way to charge a lot of EVs. Toyota is wisely holding their water. There is a danger in urging unplanned and hasty moves away from ICE vehicles. Do we want to listen to unending speeches every election cycle that we are closer than we have ever been to 100% electrification and that voting for certain folks will make it happen faster? Picture every car in your town suddenly becoming all electric and a third of them need a charge or the driver will be late for work. This will take a lot of time and money.
  • Kendahl One thing I've learned is that cars I buy for local errands tend to be taken on 1,000 mile trips, too. We have a 5-speed Focus SE that has gone on longer trips than I ever expected. It has served us well although, if I had it to do over again, I would have bought an ST. At the time of purchase, we didn't plan to move from 1,000 feet elevation to 6,500. The SE is still adequate but the ST's turbo and extra power would have been welcome.
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