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Auto registration study reveals red state, blue state leanings

R.L. Polk's auto registration study says domestic cars do better in red states, with Ford at No. 1. But who buys Kias or Toyotas is not so straightforward.

February 15, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times

Republicans buy Kias and Democrats lean to Hyundais.

That's the tongue-in-cheek election-year analysis of vehicle 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.

Although 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 study found that drivers in red states leaned to half-ton pickups: Their share of new registrations in red states was about twice that of blue states. Libby said four of the 10 most popular models in red states were pickups, contrasted with two of the top 10 in blue states.

"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 in blue states.

The registrations also reveal some trends about the Japanese brands that many in the auto industry wouldn't have expected. 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.

jerry.hirsch@latimes.com

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