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Red state-blue state car sales comparison reveals surprises

February 14, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch
  • Kias such as this Optima sedan at the Chicago Auto Show sell better in states that vote Republican while cars from its South Korean cousin, Hyundai, sell better in Democratic-leaning states, according to R.L. Polk & Co.
Kias such as this Optima sedan at the Chicago Auto Show sell better in states… (Bloomberg )

Republicans purchase Kias while Democrats lean to Hyundais.

That’s the tongue-in-cheek election-year analysis of auto registrations by automotive research firm R.L. Polk & Co.

Polk looked at car registration trends in so-called red and blue states, red representing a higher share of Republican voters than Democrats and blue representing a Democratic-leaning populace.

“Kia's market share is a full point higher in the red states, while Hyundai, its corporate cousin, captures almost a half-point more in the blue than in the red,” said Tom Libby, a Polk analyst.

While it’s impossible to discern the political leanings of car owners based on registration data, the divergence does point out that the South Korean corporate cousins “are appealing to different audiences, a trend the management teams of the two makes would welcome,” Libby said.

The registration study found that drivers in red states lean to large half-ton pickups — their market share of new registrations is about twice that of in blue states. Libby said that four of the 10 most popular models in red states are pickups, but only two of the top 10 in blue states are pickups.

“Also not surprisingly, the domestic brands do better in the red states while both Toyota and Honda excel in the blue states which are concentrated on the two coasts,” he said.

Overall, Ford is the most popular brand in red states — possibly because of the dominance of its F-series truck, which was the bestselling vehicle of any type nationally last year — and Toyota was the most popular nameplate in blue states.

The registrations also reveal some trends about the Japanese brands that many in the auto industry wouldn’t expect. The Toyota Camry, the bestselling passenger car in the U.S. and the foundation of Toyota’s success in this country, has a higher share in red states than in blue states. Nissan's share is a full point higher in red states.

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