By on October 22, 2012

After traveling to IranJapan, and Russia, after having a peak at 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.

Pos Model 9m 2012 % US
1 Toyota Prius 46,380 3.7% 17
2 Honda Civic 43,143 3.5% 6
3 Honda Accord 39,027 3.1% 4
4 Toyota Camry 37,888 3.0% 2
5 Toyota Corolla 29,743 2.4% 7
6 Honda CR-V 22,475 1.8% 9
7 Ford F-Series 18,862 1.5% 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 #8, one Korean – the Hyundai Sonata at #9 and one German – the VW Jetta at #10, 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. #61.

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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24 Comments on “Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Toyota Prius King Of California...”

  • avatar

    Not to be pedantic, but California is not the biggest state (that would be Alaska). It’s not even #2 (that would be Texas). It gets the bronze at #3.

    Now it IS the most populous state, if that’s what you were going for…

    • 0 avatar

      Biggest car market. This is a car site, not a map.

      • 0 avatar

        Well yes, this is a car site, and a free one at that, so I shouldn’t be too critical I guess.

        It’s still sloppy writing, and given the demise of basic geographic competency in America’s schools, I guess a sentence like that rubs the wrong way.

        But I guess I’m in the minority…

      • 0 avatar

        “Largest Cities” commonly refers to population per the US Census Bureau. But for states’ population, usually says ‘most populous’. Symantics.

  • avatar

    Do Priui owners still get unrestricted access to the HOV lanes? It is my understanding that this a pretty big draw for the Prius as much as its ability to conserve fuel and save polar bears.

  • avatar

    I wonder how much of a role California’s high gas prices play in making the Prius the #1 selling car in the state.

  • avatar

    It appears that the Mazda3 and Focus, two of the most commonly seen new cars in San Diego, are missing from the complete CA list found on the link.

  • avatar

    Ford used to be the #1 selling brand in CA, like 30 years ago. The Japanese have been here since the 1960s. I think what happened is that Detroit ignored small cars for so long and CA always embraced them, at least partly because our gas prices have always been relatively high and commute distances great. Also, Honda and Toyota have always had US HQ here, so they are more “in touch” with the locals, while the Ford and GM closed all the plants. Nissan moved out a while back, and it shows.

    • 0 avatar

      Very interesting points, so Toyota/Honda USA may design some, if not all models, with a California market in mind, a ‘west coast slant’ as it were. This explains so much if this is true.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      California is about as close to Japan as you can get in the US: vast swaths of low-rise urban sprawl hemmed in by mountain ranges near the coast. It’s not surprising that cars which sell well in one would also do well in the other.

  • avatar

    Is the Prius the top selling car, or is the Prius *family* topping the charts? The claim I’ve heard is for the latter — and it seems to me like the Prius v and Prius c should be counted as separate models. Indeed, the c would make more sense lumped in with the Yaris it’s based on than with the much larger Prius.

    I also find the ranked list on the linked article a little suspect — it’s missing a lot of really mainstream cars. I don’t doubt that the domestics do worse than imports in California, but am I really to believe that the Focus, Fusion, and Malibu are all outsold by the Z4 at 410 units? I think the overall ranking is just a compilation of the “top 5 by segment” PDF linked, which is misleading at best.

  • avatar

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Not exactly. Toyota has made Prius a a main-stream hybrid that is priced competitively with vehicles with an ICE. I thought about replacing my Escape with a Prius V. The Prius has gone from ” a movie star car” to a car being steadily and quietly sold. The equestrian set still drives Jeep Grand Cherokees, Suburbans, and dually pick-up trucks. It’s a tricky audience where style, price, and real hauling capacity are all factored in.

    • 0 avatar

      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.

  • avatar

    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?

    • 0 avatar

      Very good analysis. I live in Silicon Valley, where Prius models are all over; that environmental concern combined with many people who are fascinated with technology may account for the appeal of hybrid cars. Some of the biggest tech moguls are known to drive Prius (such as the Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page).

      And yes, the climate allows motorists to drive cars for many, many years, consequently used cars in good condition generally gost more than in other states.

    • 0 avatar

      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

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