Coast to Coast 2014: Las Vegas, Nevada

Matt Gasnier
by Matt Gasnier
Tonka-tuned Ford F-150. How perfectly Vegas.

* You can see all the USA Coast to Coast Reports here! *

We are now leaving in our path beautiful Monument Valley to drive through Arizona and arrive in Las Vegas, Nevada. A very different official Top 5 best-selling models than the entirety of the dozen states we have just crossed, some crazy Vegas vehicles, the traditional car landscape analysis and all the things you didn’t think you needed to know about the state of Nevada are below.

Nissan Versa with Albert and um.. Las Vegas in the background

Although Nevada is mostly desert and happens to be the driest state in the entire United States, its name comes from the Spanish nevada, meaning “snow-covered”, after the Sierra Nevada, a mountain range now almost completely located in California. Confused? I was too. Daytime summer temperatures rise as high as 125 °F (52 °C) compared to nighttime winters getting as cold as −50 °F (−46 °C). Surely one of the widest temperature differences in the whole country. The land corresponding to present day Nevada used to be part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, becoming Mexico in 1821, then gained by the United States in 1848 after the Mexican-American War. Nevada became the 36th state in 1864, as the second of two states added to the Union during the Civil War- the first being West Virginia).

Chevrolet C3500 in Las Vegas NV

Population-wise, talking about Nevada roughly equates talking about Las Vegas, as over two thirds of the 2.8m strong population of the state lives in the Clark County – Las Vegas metropolitan area. This also means around 75% of all cars roaming the state do so in or around Las Vegas, having a big impact on which nameplates are the most popular here as we’ll see shortly. With a population of just 40,000 in 1900, Nevada was then and by far the least populated state in the country, however establishment of legalised gambling and lenient marriage and divorce laws transformed the state into a major tourist destination, with the myriad of jobs associated with it. Also, Nevada is the only state where prostitution is legal, though it is illegal in Clark County and Washoe County which contain Las Vegas and Reno, respectively.

Albert smartly posing next to an Albertsons sign and Nissan Versa Note near Henderson NV (one of the fastest growing cities in the USA)

From the end of World War II onwards all the way up to 2003, Nevada’s population was the fastest-growing in the US percentage-wise. For example, between 1990 and 2000, Nevada’s population increased 66%, while the USA’s population as a whole increased by just 13%. This population increase owes a lot to immigration rather than natural growth, and today, the majority of the population in Las Vegas and Reno (the two main metropolitan areas in the state) was born in another state or country. Also worthy of note is the fact that in 2010, illegal immigrants constituted an estimated 8.8% of the population, the highest percentage of any state in the country.

Nowadays the fastest-growing areas have ‘migrated’ (no pun intended) to the outskirts of Las Vegas, with northern suburbs Henderson and North Las Vegas among the USA’s top 20 fastest-growing cities of over 100,000. Final piece of trivia: the capital importance of tourism in Nevada translates into a record: the most hotel rooms per capita in the United States. Nevada has one hotel room for every 14 residents, compared to a national average of one hotel room per 67 residents.

The Nissan Altima, not the Ford F-150, is the best-selling vehicle in Nevada.

Best-selling light vehicles in Nevada – Full Year 2013:

PosModel20131Nissan Altima4,5902Toyota Corolla3,9233Hyundai Elantra3,2804Toyota Camry3,2435Ford F-1502,781

Source: JATO Dynamics

Instead of speculating any further, now that you know everything worth knowing about Nevada, let’s get straight into official sales figures, courtesy of JATO Dynamics. And what a different sales charts this is. Due to the almost total urbanisation of the population, pickup sales are very, very much lower than almost every other state in the country. The best-selling pickup is, expectedly, the Ford F-150 but it only ranks 5th here with just 60% of the leader’s sales. If you have been following this series for a while now the best-seller in Nevada won’t really be a surprise…

The Toyota Corolla is #2 in Nevada. Here in Las Vegas about to get a hair cut AND a tattoo.

We have seen that as we get closer to Mexico, Nissan gets stronger and stronger in the sales charts. This reflects the growing share of Hispanics in the states’ population and their preference for Japanese and Korean brands, notably Nissan which is by far the most popular manufacturer in Mexico with 1 in every 4 sales. The Nissan Altima then very logically takes the lead of the Nevada sales charts in 2013, with 17% more sales than the Toyota Corolla, making its first appearance in the official Top 5 of any state we have crossed so far at #2. The Hyundai Elantra and Toyota Camry make up the rest of a Top 4 100% non-American. For more detail on the car buying preferences of America’s ethnic population check out the New Mexico article here.

Walmart and Toyota Tundra: two staples of the Las Vegas landscape.

Outside the official Top 5 best-sellers, the following nameplates struck me as particularly successful in Las Vegas. The Nissan Versa is the (rental) Hero in Town, with the Sentra also very frequent. We’ve seen that pickup trucks are markedly less popular here than almost all states we have visited so far bar perhaps New York and Washington DC, and this is verified in Vegas streets. The Toyota Tundra could come as ‘high’ as #2 pickup truck in Vegas after the F-150 based on its frequency in the areas of town I have visited – though that doesn’t mean it would rank inside the overall Top 10 or even Top 20. I also spotted a few new generation Chrysler 200 (almost certainly rentals) and an unusually high amount of Toyota Avalon.

Ford F-150 in Las Vegas NV

Not unlike in Albuquerque, driving away from the overly touristic Vegas Strip is the perfect way to get lost in deserted streets and come face-to-face with a flurry of cool, vintage pickups, some of them almost in mint condition. Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado of all ages still grace the back streets of Las Vegas today.

Las Vegas street scene

The taxis in circulation in the city are also a unique mix of previous gens Chevy Impala and Malibu, previous gen Ford Escape hybrid, Dodge Grand Caravan, Scion xB (the first time I see such an important a fleet of Scion taxis during this trip) and Toyota Prius. Trying to be eco-friendly here, the taxis of Las Vegas, as if to try and be forgiven for all the sinning (?) happening on a daily basis in town.

Las Vegas street scene

I know what you’re thinking: here I am writing a report about Las Vegas and there hasn’t been any exclamation mark in sight yet. The casinos! The Strip! The gambling! The lights! The Wynn Hotel! The wedding chapels inside the casinos! The Cirque du Soleil shows! Alcohol! Drugs! Food buffets! Cigars! Vice! I guess I must be getting old, or I have been here too many times already. This is the third time in fact, and although the first two left me mesmerised by so much excess, so much money flowing into oblivion and so much air conditioning in the middle of the desert, this time I found Vegas tired.

Dodge Ram at Casino Royale, Las Vegas NV

Perhaps it was just me that was starting to get tired, with now almost 5000 miles since my New York departure. I found the Beatles Cirque du Soleil show very professional, enthusiastic but copy-pasted, the Strip actually rather depressing under the rain, and the Top of the World panoramic restaurant’s waitresses’ smile just that tad bit too forced to make us feel really welcome. But I’m sure Vegas will be reborn shortly, as it has done so many times in the past.

Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia and runs a car sales statistics website and consultancy: BestSellingCars which just celebrated its 4th anniversary.

Many thanks to David Curry for the photos in this report.

Nissan Sentra in Las Vegas NV
Ford F-150 in Las Vegas NV
Albert and Toyota 4Runner in Las Vegas NV
Chevrolet Impala detail in Las Vegas NV
Hummer and Encore/Wynn twin hotels in Las Vegas NV
Matt Gasnier
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4 of 16 comments
  • -Nate -Nate on Nov 26, 2014

    SWMBO loves Las Vegas , me not so much so when we go , I find other outlets to spend my Tourist Dollars at : LVPD is killer on parking so the local scrap yards overflow with new and old cars , trucks and yes , even Motos that were quickly impounded then abandoned by their hapless & broke owners . There are also many good low price book stores , places to hike and so on . Once you leave the Strip it's all pretty nice IMO . -Nate

    • See 1 previous
    • -Nate -Nate on Nov 27, 2014

      @davefromcalgary Yes , she really is ~ I'm one of those few older men who can't run home to my Sweet fast enough , ever after all these years . Cute too ~ I don't have any pix on this computer . -Nate

  • Fincar1 Fincar1 on Nov 26, 2014

    Get away from Las Vegas and you'll see that a very high proportion of pickups in Nevada are 4WD. This seems quite reasonable considering the open spaces and the back country that ranchers, miners etc. need to traverse. But the concentration of population in Las Vegas and Reno pretty much washes that out.

  • Ravenuer No, I wouldn't be interested in doing this at all. Seems like it would be quite expensive.
  • Tassos Why buy either when you have two matching 2007 diesel e-classes with combined over 950k km. NO ONE SHOULD WANT MORE THAN I HAVE SETTLED FOR.
  • FreedMike Depends on the used car. If we're talking a numbers-matching GTO or something like that, then hell no. But if we're talking about something like a six-banger '67 Mustang, it'd be cool to make it into an EV with modern suspension, brakes and electronics. Call it an electro-restomod.
  • Billccm I think history is repeating itself. In the late 1980s the French acquired AMC. They discovered no easy money in that deal, Chrysler took AMC and Jeep is all that remained.Present day the French acquired FCA, discovered no easy money in the deal, and some Asian manufacturer will take what remains of Chrysler, and Jeep and RAM will be all that survived.To understand the future study the past.
  • Jalop1991 "why did the governor veto a bill to give me free gummint money?"