By on September 12, 2014

Nissan Rogue Virginia. Picture courtesy of motortrend.comNot my picture, but the Hero of the Day: the Nissan Rogue.

After New York City and Washington DC, today we continue South on the Interstate 95 Highway to cross Virginia via a detour to Williamsburg, then North and South Carolina to arrive in Charleston. As soon as we leave the Washington urban area, the vehicle landscape starts to progressively change to allow more pick-up trucks on the road. My Ram 1500 4×4 (Albert) is now starting to feel less out of his comfort zone and more and more at home…

Full report below the jump.

Before I share with you in detail the vehicle landscape I encountered in this part of the trip, now that I have driven over 750 miles (1200 km) on US roads I thought it would be a good time to give you my first impressions on what driving in the United States feels like. I have just spent the past couple of months in Southern Europe where driving is a tiring, chest-bumping sport aimed at showing who’s boss on the road. The French have had to be beaten into submission by hundreds of unforgiving speed radars for the most part located in unclear or lower speed limit zones to maximise revenue, but that hasn’t deterred many radar-savvy locals to flash through the highway at over 130 mph (200 km/h).

New York-CharlestonUS Coast to Coast trip so far. Picture courtesy of Google Maps

However to this day I still am yet to spot a true American lunatic driving dangerously – and I will be just fine if I never do. I have found American highways one of the most relaxing and predictable driving experiences of my life. Unlike in Australia, where effective advertising campaigns have convinced car owners to drive 5 km/h below the speed limit (true story), Yankees all pretty much drive at the speed limit or slightly above, and there are no sluggish cars to disrupt the traffic, making us look like we are all in cruise controlled trains enjoying the landscape and waving at each other hands-free.

RAM 1500 Ford Fusion EmporiaAlbert next to a Ford Fusion in Emporia VA

I have learnt that to insert myself fluidly into US highway traffic,  a good idea is to drive 5 mph above the speed limit, which goes as high as 70mph (113km/h). I may or may not have done that… It’s a high enough difference to satisfyingly beat all Google Maps route duration predictions by a large margin (the Tradesman trim of my Ram does not have a sat nav), but small enough to avoid bothering local sheriffs… so far. While European driving is unmistakably associated with road rage and arrogant behavior, at no point have I seen anyone flashing their lights to overtake. I’m sure some of you will disagree, but coming from someone who drove in France for almost 20 years, I am happily surprised at how civilized and patient everyone and is on the road.

Chevrolet Impala North CarolinaThe Chevrolet Impala is also very popular here.

There is one thing that did shock me at first though. For all their wild driving, one thing French drivers will consider sacrilege is overtaking on the right. This is considered a highly offensive, let alone illegal manoeuvre in Europe: a way to scream to the other driver that he/she really drives like a … Given in the US everyone drives roughly at the same speed, overtaking appears to be done on each side and I did get offended when that first happened. Add to this that from the height of my truck, a Mazda Miata-type coupé is almost invisible on my rear mirrors when it sneaks up from the right, especially when I don’t expect anything to come by from that side. Oh well, I got used to it.

2013 Coachmen Encounter. Picture courtesy of imcdb.com2013 Coachmen Encounter RV in movie “We’re the Millers”

Now onto the vehicle landscape. First things first, a very striking observation: all the way since New York I have been spotting a constant flow of RVs. But not your traditional LCV (Light Commercial Van) transformed into an RV, German family style. No. The big ass RVs like the one you saw in Hollywood movie ‘We’re the Millers’ (pictured above) and costing well above $100,000 to purchase. Given this flow abruptly stopped as soon as I drove North-West through Georgia, I will assume these RVs are rentals that are headed towards Florida and/or the sunbelt for the holidays.

Best seller by stateStates in blue have the Ford F-Series as best-seller… Picture courtesy of Business Insider

If Virginia’s best-seller is the Honda Accord (hard to pick from the highway landscape), crossing the border to North Carolina means you enter Ford F-Series territory (blue on the map above), a zone I will remain in almost the whole way to Los Angeles except in Oklahoma (Nissan Altima) and California (Honda Civic). I stepped out of the highway in Colonial Williamsburg (I highly recommend this massive historical village eerily wifi-enabled – makes for a slightly asynchronistic experience) and there the Ford F-Series and, surprisingly, Toyota Tundra were the most frequent.

RAM 1500 WilliamsburgAlbert in Williamsburg VA

The Hero in ‘Town’ (although we are talking about 3 different States) is the Nissan Rogue and by far. I saw dozens of the new generation all the way through this part of the trip and this has to come to consumer preference or a huge deal with rental companies, as this model is built in Smyrna, Tennessee. The new gen Chevrolet Impala is also extremely popular in this part of the United States, and I also spotted two Tesla Model S which would seem to indicate that the success of this electric car isn’t limited to California and big cities. Next stop is Charleston in South Carolina…

Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia and writes a blog dedicated to tracking car sales around the globe: BestSellingCarsBlog

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38 Comments on “Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Coast to Coast 2014 – Driving Through Virginia, North & South Carolina...”

  • avatar

    Yep. There are tons and tons of Altimas here in Oklahoma (and also tons and tons of F-150s). I don’t think it’s a *punishment* to drive one, like everyone else at TTAC seems to, but it’s a car that doesn’t do anything for me. Well, actually it looks pretty tidy from the rear end. I’m surprised that I’m not seeing many new Rogues here because it’s a compelling choice, and it has that masculine styling that people are looking for in small/small-midsized crossovers these days.

    And I’m not sure which developer added an dotted blue “outline” state to all of the links on the site, but it’s not working properly. More than that, it looks very Web 2.0 and clashes with the design of the site.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    So what does the yellow represent like in Fl.? I would think some Toyota like Camry or Corolla

  • avatar

    I don’t know if its just the camera angle, but Albert looks MASSIVE next to that older GM SUV.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    The Emporia town fathers are dismayed that you did not support the local schools by driving 6 mph over the limit.

    The Rogue seems to hit a sweet spot of being a popular size and segment, with lots of geegaws and a modest price.

  • avatar

    Ah, I see that you coming to my home town, Charleston SC. If you go out to the hood you will find Chargers, 300’s, 200’s and avengers. Go to Mount Pleasant where the Ashley’s live you are in Beemer land. Downtown it is probably going to be the Accord. Out in Ravenal, James Island etc it will be the F150, go out to Kiawah Island and you are in Mercedes territory. Go down my street and you will also have the pleasure of seeing the owners previous three cars out on the front lawn.

  • avatar

    ah! As a native Charlestonian, you’ll love it (hopefully) and you may be able to avoid the influx of rentals since travel season is coming to a close.

    Charleston has a few unique areas, and each area you’ll see a different landscape:

    – Summerville and westward up 26: heavy truck country, F150s, RAMs, Silverados/Sierras…etc. Also, lots of Suburbans and Tahoes.

    – Downtown/Historic Charleston, due to the college, is a lot of Yuppies and college students – but also a lot of eco-friendly folks: Priuses (even the mayor drives one), Wranglers, and “cute utes” with a fair number of Subarus and typical college student cars thrown in.

    – Cross over into Mt. Pleasant, and you’ll enter a sea of gold (suvs): RX300/330/350s, ML320, GX470, et al.

    It’s an awesome area, and be sure to stop by a hole in the wall for BBQ…or seafood. Lots to choose from, just avoid tourist traps.

    • 0 avatar

      Summerville here…just off of Main over by the home of the Greenwave! Actually, I currently live in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I’ll be very interested in reading the take on the Lowcounty, TTAC-style. I will say that I sorely miss home! Stop by Ladson and see how my wife’s 2012 tC is doing…lol

      • 0 avatar

        Small world! Summerville native here – technically third generation – living in Houston though for work. Or else I’d take you up on doing some re-con work on that tC… (late grandfather lived in Ladson).

        I’m looking forward to seeing it as well, though!

  • avatar

    If this was an electoral map some politician somewhere wishes he/she/it was a Ford F-150…

    • 0 avatar

      Ronald Reagan was the F-150 of presidents.

      • 0 avatar

        and Johnson and FDR.

        • 0 avatar



          Your observation that the lanes on the highways often are traveling at the same speed is a holdover from the Nixon 55mph national speed limit, which was finally rescinded in the early ’90s, the fact that most speed limits are too low, lack of good driver education, and a lot of immigrants who are totally ignorant of rules of the road. In fact, often the fastest speeds are in the right lane, because most people like to stay out of it so that they can drive mindlessly along, instead of having to be cognizant of cars entering the highway. The highways would be safer if there was some lane discipline.

          Speeds between NY and DC are often higher than you indicate (I drive that route several times a year), especially on the New Jersey Turnpike, where 80 is common. The general rule of thumb is that the troopers will leave you alone at less than 10 above the speed limit, but some states (probably including Virginia) have a slimmer margin.

          I haven’t driven in France in years, except for one trip from Paris to Quimper (400 miles or so) in ’87, but in two bicycle trips there, in ’87 and ’89 (Britttany and Bergerac-Avignon, respectively), and a day or so riding around Paris, I was not afraid of the drivers. In great contrast to when I lived in Paris ’65-66, and when I spent about a month there in ’71.

          In that one 400 mile car trip, I was amazed at how fast cars were passing me, and I finally paced one: 100mph.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I don’t know if I totally agree with your comment regarding the driving in different countries.

    In France I totally enjoyed my driving experience. My biggest dislike regarding driving a vehicle in France was finding a place to park.

    It seems, even in small villages in the south of France parking was a pain. Driving through the villages was and is the norm in many cases, this can be a great experience, even in the Yaris.

    My US experience with the drivers is the common disrespect for driving laws and rules, like keeping in the correct lane. Another issue I found in the US is pedestrians just walk out in front of you and they expect you to stop! There are things called pedestrian crossings for humans. I have been given the finger a couple of times by my refusal not to give way to a fool living on borrowed time.

    Australia is a little more contained, except Sydney, which can be a nightmare to drive in. On the highway most people are quite respectful and tend to keep in the correct lanes more than the US.

    Regarding the French, you are correct about driving in the correct lanes. But, this is good. There’s nothing worse than someone in the ‘fast’ lane blocking traffic.

    I didn’t experience the radars you did in France. Most were driving at around 150kph on the Autoroutes in the south west, from Barritz into Spain to Royan and out to Toulouse.

    • 0 avatar

      “Another issue I found in the US is pedestrians just walk out in front of you and they expect you to stop!”

      Seems to me this is particularly bad in Chicago as is the pedestrian death toll or maybe that was Boston where pedestrians do have the right-of-way IIRC.

      In my home town they actually had to put up a fence to prevent people from crossing at one particular section of the street as people were continually getting mowed down.

      • 0 avatar

        Of course, nobody’s noticed that certain areas in Japanese cities have fences at the curb for the same reason–or is that just in Animé?

      • 0 avatar

        I hear that a general disregard for traffic is an increasing problem in the UK these days too. The game I played as an irresponsible youth involved quickly assessing the physical agility of the targets and then laying on the horn and the gas simultaneously. One day a French girl froze like a dear in the headlights, but it was the “aww how romantic” way her boyfriend doubled back and grabbed hold of her so they could share their demise that made me hit the brakes to avoid them and quit that game.

        Hangs head in shame.

  • avatar

    Virginia drivers were beaten into submission decades ago, but speeds thirty and forty mph over the limit are common as you go further south and west. It’s possible to average 77 mph door to door from central Virginia to southern California without a radar detector or a ticket. Years ago, I had a part time job as a chauffeur. I once picked up a couple loud-mouthed Brits at LAX. They were talking about how slow US speed limits are without realizing we were running with traffic at over 95 mph.

    • 0 avatar

      “Virginia drivers were beaten into submission decades ago”

      Tru’dat, speed kills seems like a major religion for the troopers in VA. I’ve told this before but some poor lass was pulled over doing 80 in a 70 and the trooper told her she was a menace to the surrounding traffic and when VA voted to raise the speed limit to 70 I remember some old state trooper nearly have an aneurism on TV vowing that anybody going 1 mph over the new limit would face that old guy’s full fury.

      And what seems to be all the fashion lately is throwing people in jail for a reckless driving charge.

      Its to bad VA doesn’t have a 3 strikes rule so they could fill the prison with speeders serving life while letting murderers, rapist and child molesters out early to make room for those nasty speeders.

      Life lets me down like that though.

      • 0 avatar

        If you get thru Virginia without a speeding ticket, you’re probably golden for the rest of the South. In Virginia, radar detectors are illegal (only DC shares that distinction), and every country deputy has a radar gun. Which is on all the time, and can be used, stationary, moving, in any direction, with absolutely no restrictions.

        About three years ago, during the January legislative session, a bill was introduced to limit radar use to State Police (like in Pennsylvania). One county sheriff vehemently testified before the committee that to do this would be disaster on his county’s budget.

        At least he was honest. The bill died in committee, never coming close to a floor vote.

        • 0 avatar

          I have been traveling south and north through Virginia nearly every year for 17 years on both I-81 and I-95 and have NEVER received a speeding ticket. Interestingly, I do always see State and County police covering the highways and in every case that they were on MY side of the interstate, they’ve pulled over a car that had recently passed me going well, WELL over the speed limit.

          That said, I might note that Arkansas enacted a state law limiting the amount of revenue a community could garner from traffic tickets because SOME communities were using ticket revenue for 50% and more of their local budget. It took a State prosecutor AND a State judge getting hit with a big ticket on the same day even AFTER the judge was warned about the speed trap by the prosecutor for the issue to become noticed by the State itself–though they’d received complaints about that one community for years. They passed it off as simple sour grapes that the recipients got caught.

      • 0 avatar

        In Virginia a lot of highways have a speeding limit of 70mph. If you are caught going 80mph You are a now a felon.

        Unless you hire a Virginia lawyer to help you plead “defective equipment” (I think that means your speedometer is off). Then you pay the lawyer ~$200, and pay the court ~$200 I think. Maybe pay a traffic school ~$80. It is all about money. If you are using cruise control on the highway, be sure to use your brakes on the hills, they are enough to put you over the limit.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        There was a 3-strikes rule that jacked up fines into 4 digits back in 2007. It turned out to be wildly unpopular and was rescinded by the legislature the next year.

        • 0 avatar

          Did not know that, sounds like it was about as popular as the “remedial civil fee” which btw was just hidden in the reckless charge.

          When they passed the RCF, I had an unnatural desire to move to another state and blow through VA on a DUI and a reckless – yeah, I would have gone to jail and lost my license but it would still have been cheaper than some poor schmuck living in VA under the RCF committing the same felony which I found hilarious and sad at the same time.

    • 0 avatar

      Tell me about it. I moved from Pennsylvania to Virginia during the summer of 1998. In Pennsylvania, I had pulled one moving violation in the previous twenty years. In Virginia, between 1998 and 2000, I had nine. Eight of which would have been illegal under Pennsylvania law.

      It took a while, but I finally figured it out. Have had one ticket in the past fourteen years.

  • avatar

    “However to this day I still am yet to spot a true American lunatic driving dangerously”

    You were heading the wrong direction. North bound I64 in the Newport News area. I ummm… know this guy in a white Mustang.

  • avatar

    The Rogue is mighty handsome. Ima test drive one just for schitz & giggles. And then not buy it.

  • avatar

    That Rogue is very attractive, by far the best looking one of the bunch.

    • 0 avatar

      I just spent a week with it’s transatlantic half sister, the Qashqai. All in all I cam away impressed with everything except for two aspects.

      The automatic idiot brake for hill starts in manual transmission models was infuraiting. Compared to the similarly purposed system in the Audi A3 I had for a few days later on, this damnable contraption consistently made me either stall or bunny hop from a hill start.

      The second negative was that this prince-ling of the Hertz fleet came equipped with the “not suitable for motorway” 1.2 liter turbo gas engine. When attempting to pass, or perform any maneuver which required forward motion resembling acceleration, it just wasn’t there. This was petrifying. At first I imagined I’d simply selected an inappropriate gear, however it turned out that Nissan had chosen to install an inappropriate power-train.

  • avatar

    after seeing your pictures, one can be forgiven for thinking there is nothing to see in the united estates. And not that many cars either.

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