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Toyota Prius is best selling car in California; domestics lag

October 18, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch
  • The Toyota Prius -- its station wagon version shown here -- is the most popular car in California, according to sales data through September 2012.
The Toyota Prius -- its station wagon version shown here -- is the most popular… (Toyota Motor Corp. )

When it comes to auto brands, Californians like their passenger cars from Japan, their luxury cars from Germany and their muscle cars from Detroit.

The Toyota Prius beat out all other cars, trucks and sport-utility vehicles to be the best selling passenger vehicle of any type in California through the first nine months of this year.

Toyota sold 46,380 of the hybrids in the Golden State, according to a report from AutoCount, the car data division of Experian Co., and the California New Car Dealers Assn. 

That represents more than a quarter of all Prius sales in the U.S. through the end of September. Nationally, the Prius comes in 12th on the best-selling-vehicle list during the same period, according to Autodata Corp.

Overall, auto sales in California are growing at a faster pace than the rest of the nation. Through the first nine months of this year, auto sales have risen 26.3% in the state, compared with 14.5% nationwide.

In a move contrary to buying habits nationally, Californians most often picked the Honda Accord as their family sedan. Nationally Toyota's Camry is the best selling car of that type nationally.

Not a single American brand was able to crack either the list of the five top-selling sub-compact sedans or the top mid-size sellers in the state through September.

The BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedans were the best selling small and large luxury cars, respectively, in the state during the first nine months of this year. With the exception of the Lexus RX 350 sport-utility vehicle, most models from the luxury division of Toyota trailed well behind the Germans. 

The U.S. luxury nameplates, Cadillac and Lincoln, barely registered. Each accounts for less than 1% of California auto sales.

The areas in which domestic auto companies do best in California are muscle cars, trucks and big SUVs. The Chevrolet Camaro is the best seller in the state in the “sport compact” segment, with Ford’s Mustang in second.

Ford’s F-Series was the best selling truck, a pattern that mirrors the nation. The Chevrolet Silverado was second. The Ford Explorer was the top large SUV seller in the state. GMC’s Acadia was second.

But Californians were far more likely to buy passenger cars than shoppers nationwide during the first nine months of the year. Almost 63% of the vehicles registered in the state were cars, compared with about 53% nationally.

Californians also leaned to import brands. Domestic nameplates accounted for just 30.5% of sales in the state so far this year. That compared with 42.7% nationally.

Toyota, along with its Lexus and Scion brands, dominates the California market, selling 21% of the vehicles registered in the state through September. Honda is second at 12.4%. General Motors and Ford were tied at 11.5% Nissan followed with 8.4%.  The sister Hyundai and Kia brands from South Korea accounted for 8.4% of sales, and Chrysler had 6.9%.

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