By on September 23, 2014

2015 Chevrolet Colorado2015 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.

1. Ford F250 Memphis 2Ford 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.

2. Chevrolet Camaro MemphisChevrolet 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.

3. Chrysler 200 MemphisChrysler 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?

4. Albert GMC Yukon XL MemphisQuick 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.

6. Ford E-Series Memphis 2Ford 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.

5. Chevrolet Impala MemphisChevrolet 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.

7. Chevrolet Silverado WT MemphisChevrolet 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.

8. Ford F250 MemphisFord 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

9. GMC Sierra MemphisGMC Sierra

10. Dodge Ram MemphisDodge Ram

11. Ford E-Series MemphisFord E-Series

12. Ford F250 Memphis 3Ford F250

13. GMC Sierra Memphis 2GMC Sierra

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9 Comments on “Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Coast to Coast 2014 – Memphis, Tennessee...”

  • avatar

    Interesting. In my area, I frequently see cars 10_15 years old. The rounded body style (late 90s) and boxy early 90s f series are still everywhere.

  • avatar

    I love the last photo with the new Sierra next to the 80’s C/K, the difference in size is dramatic. Part of it could be the perspective but the C/K looks like it is about half the size of the Sierra.

  • avatar

    The size of that Ram HD in front of Blues City looks appropriate for a utility-bodied truck. But when I imagine the utility box replaced by a bed it just seems gargantuan.

  • avatar

    @Matt – Tacoma CKD production is to increase at Tijuana, but isn’t it mostly shifting away from San Antonio? Can you really picture increased demand for Tacomas with the Colorado/Canyon there to eat away at its market share? Especially now that regular cabs have been taken away? And isn’t April near the end of the production year?

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    “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.

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