By on September 20, 2014

Follow all my Coast to Coast 2014 trip reports as they get published here.

After crossing Georgia and part of Tennessee – the State of Davy Crockett, Aretha Franklin and Dolly Parton (of course) – we have now landed in Nashville, the country music capital of the world. Having grown up in France, I am not overly familiar with this music genre but listening to Sirius XM’s “The Highway” satellite radio station all day long while driving had me catch up on lost time in a flash.

Full report below.

1. Nissan Altima NashvilleNissan Altima in Nashville TN

Current country music favourites are Kenny Chesney (American Kids), Aaron Lewis (Endless Summer), Luke Bryant (Drink A Beer), Dierks Bentley (How Am I Doin’) and The Cadillac Three (Party Like You). I also had the privilege to attend the 6pm show at the legendary Bluebird Café which caught me by surprise with an intimate atmosphere, the songwriters playing right in the middle of the audience. For those of you in the know, the night I was there John Pierce, Justin Lantz, Corey Crowder and Cale Dodds were playing – or rather joking around most of the time while taking turns singing. Unforgettable night.

2. Ford F150 NashvilleFord F150 in Nashville TN

So which cars do Nashville country music songwriters and hipsters buy? Based on the areas I visited (Downtown, West End and Hilsboro Road), rather different ones from the rest of the regions I have traversed so far. Logically, in a more urban environment we have more passenger cars and less pick-up trucks, with the most popular vehicles in town being (in this order) the Nissan Altima, Honda Accord – not seen at these levels since New York, Ford F-Series and Toyota Camry.

3. Chevrolet Traverse NashvilleChevrolet Traverse

Yes, I did write the Nissan Altima was the most frequent new vehicle I spotted in Nashville, ahead of all pickup trucks. Similarly to yesterday in Georgia for the Kia Optima, this could simply be because it is manufactured close-by in Canton, Mississippi. There is another Nissan plant located in Tennessee (in Smyrna) and models being spat out of this plant are also significantly more frequent in Nashville than they were up to now: the Infiniti JX, Nissan Pathfinder, Murano, Maxima, ( the now defunct) Altima coupé and most interestingly the Leaf: I saw more in Nashville than in the entire trip combined so far (including New York!).

5. GMC Acadia NashvilleGMC Acadia in Nashville TN

But there are a couple of models with an even more striking surge in popularity in Nashville: the Hero in Town is the Chevrolet Traverse and I have to confess that I did not know that car very well before landing here. This is fixed now as I had many opportunities to spot it all around town. Logically, its “twins” the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia, using the same platform and very similar in size, are also extremely popular in town.

Nissan Quest NashvilleNissan Quest

Other extremely popular vehicles in Nashville are large MPVs: the Nissan Quest is everywhere, followed closely by the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, and most taxis are Dodge Grand Caravan. Would Nashville be a big soccer mum car market? Arguably the Toyota 4Runner, never more popular so far than here in Nashville could also fit this category. Small sedans also are disproportionately successful here, led by the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, VW Jetta and Hyundai Elantra.

7. GMC Sierra NashvilleGMC Sierra in front of the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville TN

One brand stands out in Nashville that I had not seen much before: Swedish carmaker Volvo, with the S60 sedan seemingly the most popular followed by the XC60 and XC90 SUVs. Cadillac SUVs also seem to be much more popular here than they have been so far in this trip. Other over-performing models in Nashville include the Nissan Juke, Ford Escape and Lexus HS, with the Hummer brand getting noticed as well here and for the first time on my itinerary.

10. Pontiac Aztek NashvillePontiac Aztek in Nashville TN

Finallly, Nashville carbuyers seem to have had a (masochistic?) love for late Pontiac models, including the horrible-looking Aztek and the G3, a rebadged Chevrolet Aveo… That’s it for Nashville! Next stop is Memphis, still in Tennessee.

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

6. Ford E-Series NashvilleFord E-Series in Nashville TN

11. Buick Enclave NashvilleBuick Enclave

12. Dodge Grand Caravan Taxi NashvilleDodge Grand Caravan

13. Ford F150 NashvilleFord F150

14. Lexus HS NashvilleLexus HS

15. Nissan Altima Nashville 2Nissan Altima

16. GMC Acadia Nashville 2GMC Acadia

17. Pontiac G3 NashvillePontiac G3

18. Toyota 4Runner NashvilleToyota 4 Runner

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

  • avatar

    I talked to a goofy girl at a car show who brought her Aztec. Yea she liked it because everyone else didn’t. If you’re like that a bright yellow one recently appeared for sale on my commute. I think I see $2500 painted on it’s window if you’re intesested. I don’t have or want any interest in it!

  • avatar

    This series of articles has to be the most simply written, brainless, dull piece of journalism I’ve read in a long time. All you’re doing is pointing out which cars you happen to see. No statistics to back up anything, just pure random spotting of cars. Why bother?

    • 0 avatar

      You didn’t pipe up when he was out in Frozen Yak, Mongolia. Is the same approach now invalid just because he’s doing the CONUS?

      It’s auto tourism and it’s cool.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree with bikephil. This article was a waste of time, boring, and adds nothing to the interest, discussion of, or appreciation of cars. Its like he had to write a few words on paper to justify his expenses, for a business trip, that is really nothing but a vacation drive around the US. Even if thats the true motivation, with just the tiniest of effort, you could produce something much more worthy of publication, than this.

    • 0 avatar

      I actually enjoy the articles and the concept of an automotive safari. I do the same when I travel.

      Can’t please everyone.

    • 0 avatar

      If you don’t like them, don’t read them. I skip most and skim some. I don’t read every story on my news aggregator either. I’m still glad these are here, even if I’m not loving them personally. I’ll never want or buy most of the cars made, I still like that the variety exists. If we all had to agree on one consensus car, I wouldn’t be happy with the outcome. Same with articles here.

    • 0 avatar

      On the plus side, I wish I had thought of getting paid to drive across the US and point out random (and common) cars I happened to see in my travels. Look, a Camry! Ooh, a Traverse! Pay me.

      On the other hand, writing about an unusual car in each of these cities, with a little more depth and background, would actually be a lot more informative. What do construction guys like about older F250’s in Charleston? How about a crazy art car hippie in Savannah? Get a walk through of a country singers tour bus in Nashville (they are pretty impressive). How about Elvis’s Cadillac fleet while in Memphis?

      As of now the series is like eating potato chips: kind of enjoyable but not much to sink your teeth into.

  • avatar

    As a Nashvillian I can attest to the overwhelming number of Nissan products driven here. I think this series is interesting, especially since it’s written by a non-USian. We often become numb to our local vehicle environment and it’s good to see it through someone else’s eyes. The Traverse Triplets observation is interesting to me since I tend to view SUV’s as one blob of metal, not as being from individual makers these days.

    FTR, I own an F-150 and the wife drives a Lexus-made Camry.

  • avatar

    I really enjoy your articles Matt, keep them coming.

  • avatar

    Matt, don’t take the criticism too hard. I like and appreciate these articles – it is “automotive tourism” indeed, and we all do it in our heads when we travel. I especially enjoyed reading this today. As it happens I was in Nashville on business this past week. My taxis to and from the airport were, respectively, a Sienna and a Caravan, and at my hotel I noticed every taxi was a minivan. I also noticed walking around downtown the high proportion of Nissans – was thinking about it in the context of Nissan’s US HQ nearby in Franklin, TN. Matt, you’ll find a higher-than-elsewhere Nissan quotient in Texas as well, or at least in DFW. Very strong dealers here, and Nissans are the market leader in Mexico so well regarded by immigrants from there although their popularity crosses any generalization; given the range of models there would be no “typical” Nissan buyer and I see lots of GT-Rs at the monthly Cars-and-Coffee in Plano.

    Interesting observation about the Nissan Quest, which I suspect would not be borne out by the stats. Among minivans (yes, I know), I really like the current Quest – something appealingly retro about the beltline and overall detailing – but clearly my wife and I are evidently unusual in that regard as Nissan has basically dropped the model. We aren’t really in the market but my wife has an interest so we spent part of a Sunday looking around not too long ago. Among several local volume Nissan dealers I found not one in stock anywhere despite acres upon acres of Altimas, Sentras and everything else, including giant NV passenger vans (that sell for under $40k, so if the Duggers need a new car….).

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Esprit – thanks for pointing out the Mexican influence as it does makes total sense. Also agree totally with you on the Quest – couldn’t quite pinpoint it at the time but yes indeed, the beltline makes the car looks somewhat retro-modern. Clearly we are a minority as Nissan has dropped it as you mentioned!

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Matt, are you heading up to Chicago and then to LA along the old Route 66? Well, as much as you can.

    So, far your observations are interesting as are some of your photo’s.

    Can you give some feedback on the Ram, in particular it’s comfort and ergonomics for driving long distances.

    The Ram seems quite thrifty with the fuel and it’s FE is better than I thought.

  • avatar

    Personally, I really enjoy this series of articles. It’s fun to look at the background of the pictures as well. The US is an very varied place, with much for us to be proud of as well as some places and people that our country should be ashamed of. Sometimes I wonder what observations visitors make.
    The shot of an unusual car driving around breaks up the descriptions of common vehicles that we see too many of. TTAC readers from other countries will get a virtual vacation in the US. When I travel to other countries, their unique (to me) cars are part of what makes the trip interesting.
    By the way, try to catch some older country music as well if you can. It changes constantly, and the new stuff isn’t necessarily the best.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree completely. Out here in Wyoming, country music is a part of life.

      I’ll grant you that Kenny Chesney’s song is popular (and I like it), but some of the aren’t.

      Dierks Bentley has much, much newer songs. “How Am I Doing” is over 10 years old. His new song is called “Drunk on a Plane”. It’s overplayed in my mind.

      I think the best country music was from around 1995-2005. I still listen to a lot of the early 2000s stuff.

      They don’t make them like they used to. This new country is Something Bad (Look it up- you’ll get my pun!)

  • avatar

    On vacation from KY to CA when I was 16, I made a game with my sister, who at 3 years younger didn’t seem as interested in cars to me as she should have been. We had to name and write down the more exotic vehicles we saw from the camper windows. I still have the notebook somewhere and it will be interesting to see 35 years later. She became a great spotter, not that she cared about the cars, but she was competitive and wanted to add more than I. After a couple of weeks though, she said I had won. I wonder if Memphis will offer as many “gold package” equipped vehicles as it did 20 years ago.

  • avatar

    As I get older (38) and now have 22 years of driving and 7 different vehicles under my belt, I find myself continuously amused by the life cycle of cars, and how a particular model will be EVERYWHERE and then in 5 years, a rare sight.

    Just over the last week I’ve realized that the L31 Nissan Altima (2002-2006) is now the mope car de jour. I’m seeing more and more of them with cloudy headlights and body damage being hooned by unsavory looking dudes and women who were cute enough to get knocked up in high school.

    This got me thinking? What makes a good mope car de jour, and so far I’ve come up with 1) manufactured in large numbers and 2) reasonably tolerant of indifferent owners, zero maintenance, and continual abuse. Good on you Nissan for building a winner!

    • 0 avatar

      Here’s my list on what’s needed for a car model to become that way:

      1. There needs to be a bunch of them.

      2. It will either need to be a mainstream brand, or a luxury brand that depreciated quickly (Cadillac beaters exist, but out here, no BMW beaters)

      3. It will need to have a pretty reliable drivetrain, and needs to be serviceable.

      4. It must have some “redeeming quality”. A Buick is plush, a Pontiac is sporty,… A Ford Escort won’t be desirable enough to most people…

      5. It must be sturdy, and idiot proof. In addition to a bulletproof drivetrain, the vehicle must have no major weaknesses. Electrical gremlins? Cooling issues? No good.

      6. It must be cheap to insure, and run.

      So, it needs to be a common car that’ll last forever. Out here, the H-Body LeSabre is a good choice.

      Hey, wait a minute, I have one of those! I now own the same car as many washed up marijuana users! ;)

  • avatar

    I bought a new TN-made Altima GXE in 1994 so always notice when I still see them on the roads…They have a remarkably high survival rate here in TX, which speaks to their ruggedness and durability, especially as the survivors are clearly not pampered, just cheap reliable wheels.

    They were always likable cars, as is today’s Altima. That first post-Stanza generation was quite a leap forward for Nissan, stepping away from the Stanza’s blandness in both styling and dynamics. As I recall $14k got me a nice little commuter car, fully loaded and very decent to drive.

  • avatar

    Nashville proper resident here. The wife and I moved here in the late 90s from bucolic Greene County, Ohio. It’s different here than in the Midwest – very image-conscious. I would not be surprised if the cars Matt noted were from the suburbs, exurbs, or just tourists from who-knows-where. The car of choice here in the “acceptable” zip codes is a BMW. The Vanderbilt area is chock-full of leased 3 series (probably paid for by Daddy). Had he turned right where he noted the Acadia, he would’ve entered one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country, rife with every high-end car imagineable. My latest observation places the Tesla S as a very popular car there. We’ve had a running joke for years that during working hours, the only vehicles on the road here are contractors in $60,000 pickups, landscaping trucks with trailers attached and wealthy wives/stay-at-home moms driving German steel.

    That said, I’m over generalizing of course. Nissan Altima does indeed seem to be the car of choice here in the greater Middle Tennessee area followed closely by full size pickups. I just wanted to add to his article the overwhelming sense of image and branding with which residents of Nashville proper are concerned.

    The most interesting cars I’ve ever seen here have been a RUF in the zoo parking lot and a Testarossa in a hospital parking lot. There are myriad Ferraris and Maseratis but they bore me.

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