Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Coast to Coast 2014 – Memphis, Tennessee

Matt Gasnier
by Matt Gasnier
2015 Chevrolet Colorado

You can follow all Coast to Coast reports here.

After Nashville TN, we are now heading 222 miles South West to Memphis, still in Tennessee. As a reference point, the best-selling vehicles in Tennessee are the Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry and Ford F150 (2012 figures). Splitting the F-Series into its specific variants (F150, F250) does mean it is ‘only’ #1 in 22 states. However if we get into detailed observation, Memphis is the first city I have visited so far to have a strong mid-sized pick-up truck heritage and I will cover this at the end of the report. My first striking impression in Memphis is the markedly older vehicle landscape, in line with the region struggling a little economically in recent times. Cars 6-7 years or older are the norm here which prompts me to describe the state of the US car landscape as I have been witnessing it so far.

Full report below the jump.

Ford F250 and Kia Soul in Memphis TN

As I went through New York, Washington and every big city along the way including Charleston and Nashville, the common denominator is the remarkably recent vehicle landscape. The optical illusion on the country’s highways is that the majority of cars are 5 years old or less. Not true of course, but cars in frequent use on the highway and city streets tend to be biased towards more recent ones. A couple of reasons for this include the fact that fleet and rental cars, renewed fast, are ‘out there’ on the streets waiting to be spotted. For example, up until Charleston I was hard-pressed spotting any Ford F150 older than the 2003 generation. That changed a bit inland but the 2008 model is by far the most common F-Series on US road compared to all previous generations combined by a ratio of 2 to 1. Out of the hundreds of F-Series I have spotted thus far this is still rather astounding.

Chevrolet Camaro in Memphis TN

In 2013, US consumers purchased 46 new cars per thousand inhabitants, the third highest rate in the world among mainstream markets, butbelow Australia and Canada both at 48. But even compared to places I’ve been to recently like the French Riviera, Paris and Germany, arguably as wealthy as the American regions I’ve crossed so far or more, the US fleet is frankly newer.

Chrysler 200

But here’s the trick: compared to all the long-distance trips I’ve made across Europe, Russia and even China, I have spotted 3 to 4 times more broken down cars on the side of the road here in the US. That was a very surprising find. Granted, the car is a disposable item in the US as is every consumption item, but do American car buyers tend to renew their car more by necessity than desire?

Quick size check: Albert with a new generation GMC Yukon XL: roughly the same height.

Having said that, as mentioned above the environment in Memphis is miles apart from this general observation and there are not enough new cars in the streets to form a solid opinion on the best-sellers in town. The Altima is a little weaker here as is the Toyota Camry, with the Ford F250 seemingly more popular with local businesses than the F150.

Ford E-Series

I have also noted a resurgence of Ford E-Series downtown – not to the level of New York but its 2nd best frequency so far. Potentially for the same reason that they are successful in New York: secure load without the need of any modifications. The Ram pickup (my very own Albert – a Ram 1500 4×4 EcoDiesel) is at its best thus far in the trip. Other over-performing models here include the Chrysler 200 especially the brand new generation, Honda Odyssey in a similar way to Nashville, Dodge Dart for the first time in this trip, Ford Explorer and Toyota Corolla.

Chevrolet Impala in Memphis TN

Finally as promised, a specific section on mid-size pickup trucks. Once a thriving segment in the US (Ford Ranger, Dodge Dakota, Toyota Hilux…), as at early 2014 this category was reduced to the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier. Memphis is the first city in this Coast to Coast trip to display a very strong heritage of Chevrolet Colorado, a model discontinued in 2011 but about to be relaunched later this year starting at a cut-throat US$20,000 along with its more sophisticated sibling, the GMC Canyon starting at US$22,000.

Chevrolet Silverado in Memphis TN

I will go as far as saying that previous generations of Chevrolet Colorado were more frequent than all Chevrolet Silverados combined in Memphis, making it the Hero in Town. As a result the 2015 Colorado/Canyon combo should be met with a particularly warm welcome in this region of the United States, potentially threatening the F150 for #1 pickup spot in Memphis. If this scenario repeats itself in a few other States, expect Ford to respond promptly with a revival of the Ranger, a question that keeps popping up as Ford currently produces a very successful Ranger (#1 in New Zealand) out of Thailand.

Ford F250 in Memphis TN

The first signs are here: General Motors announced a few days ago it will add a third shift for its new mid-size pickup trucks at its Wentzville, Missouri assembly plant even though they aren’t on sale yet. GM claims to have received as many as 30,000 dealer orders for the mid-sizers so far. Add to this Toyota which will increase its Tacoma production output by 40% from April 2015 onwards to satisfy demand, and it would appear mid-size pickup trucks are back in fashion in the US.

And for once that’s actually not all for Memphis, next is a special Post on the cars of Elvis Presley as displayed in Graceland, located in the Southern suburbs of Memphis.

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

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Ford E-Series
Ford F250
GMC Sierra
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4 of 9 comments
  • Mandalorian Mandalorian on Sep 23, 2014

    Memphis is a beautiful city. If you want to see a ton of brand new Mercedes, drive 60 mi south to Oxford, MS. Beautiful town, great school, and every car is a Mercedes.

  • Ciscokidinsf Ciscokidinsf on Sep 23, 2014

    "in line with the region struggling a little economically in recent times." Dunno what 'recent' times mean, but I can tell you, the place was struggling since the early 90's when I lived there, and while things have gotten a tiny little better since then (NBA franchise and had an NFL team for a year) and FEDEX employs a ton of folks, but the city still is not a financial powerhouse of any means. Memphis is the Bankruptcy capital of the US and it reflects in their vehicles selected. Along with no strong Smog checks, you can run older vehicles for a long while. If you want to see a great automotive documentary, look for 'Slasher' by John Landis - it tracks a weekend of 'slasher sales' at a Memphis used car dealership, who has hired this guy 'the slasher' to clear some used car inventory - really an eye-opener and a great documentary for any car person and a perfect window into Memphis dealerships.

    • See 1 previous
    • Wheatridger Wheatridger on Sep 24, 2014

      @Corey Lewis There's a reason it's the Home of the Blues. The last Memphian who realized his dream might have been Elvis. Sad, but true.

  • ED I don't know what GM is thinking.I have a 2020 one nice vehicle.Got rid of Camaro and was going to buy one.Probably won't buy another GM product.Get rid of all the head honchos at GM.This company is a bunch of cheapskates building junk that no one wants.
  • Lostjr Sedans have been made less practical, with low rooflines and steeply raked A pillars. It makes them harder to get in and out of. Probably harder to put a kid in a child seat. Sedans used to be more family oriented.
  • Bob Funny how Oldsmobile was offering a GPS system to help if you were lost, yet GM as a company was very lost. Not really sure that they are not still lost. They make hideous looking trucks, Cadillac is a crappy Chevy pretending to be fancy. To be honest, I would never step in a GM show room now or ever. Boring, cheap ugly and bad resale why bother. I get enough of GM when i rent on trips from airports. I have to say, does anybody at GM ever drive what everyone else drives? Do they ever then look at what crap they put out in style fit and finish? Come on, for real, do they? Cadillac updated slogan should be " sub standard of the 3rd world", or " almost as good as Tata motors". Enough said.
  • Sam Jacobs I want a sedan. When a buy a car or even rent one, I don’t want to ride up high. I don’t want a 5-door. I want a trunk to keep my stuff out of sight. It’s quieter, cars handle better, I don’t need to be at the same height as a truck. I have a 2022 Subaru Legacy Touring XT, best car ever, equipped as a luxury sedan, so quick and quiet. I don’t understand automakers’ decisions to take away sedans or simply stop updating them — giving up the competition. The Camry and Accord should not be our only choices. Impala and Fusion were beautiful when they were axed.
  • Spamvw I think you need to remember WHY the big 2 and 1/2 got out of the car business. Without going political, the CAFE standards signed into law meant unless you had a higher gas mileage fleet, you couldn't meet the standards.The Irony is that, the law made sedans so small with low roof lines, that normal people migrated to SUV's and Trucks. Now we get worse mileage than before.