Bet you’ve never thought about how your personal politics might be related to the brand of car you drive – or if that brand might be a reflection of your politics? I hadn’t either until I came across some research the major car companies are paying a lot of attention to. And there’s nothing like combining a guy’s two favorite subjects – cars and politics – to get my attention.
Edmunds.com is a favorite web haunt dealing with all things automotive – vehicle values, road tests, consumer reviews, government safety testing and the like. If you’re into cars, it can keep you digging around on the subject for a long time. But I’d never thought of it as a place to go for political or economic news. Seems it is.
Our “Big Three” automakers are totaling the numbers to see how well they did in 2012. Two key factors used to measure success are sales and market share. These are reliable – though shifting – benchmarks and the news is expected to be good. As far as it goes. But Edmunds has begun pointing out a third measure for a successful year. And that factor is not good for domestics. In fact, it’s troubling.
Edmunds researchers have found brands of the Big Three are becoming “regionalized.” Each may have a strong following and a sales lead in one area of the country while losing share in another part. In fact, core markets can be rooted so deeply that sales for any one of the three can go way up. Or drop way off.
Let’s call it the “Red State-Blue State” phenomena. State-by-state sales data strongly indicates cars made by the Detroit Three are largely Red State cars, popular with people in the heartland that vote Republican. Yep, it’s true. And imports, by contrast, do better in Blue States where the majority of voters are Democrats. Usually on or near both coasts.
“So what,” you ask? “Who cares?”
Well, the Big Three care. A lot. Because the news doesn’t favor domestic brands. Red states tend to be more rural, less populated and slower-growing than the rest of the country. The top 10 in order: Michigan, North/South Dakota, Iowa, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Indiana. They have in common stable or declining populations (except for North Dakota which is temporary), are mostly ignored by national media and have little impact on broad national trends.
Now, Blue States. Mostly import brands. In order: Hawaii, District of Columbia, California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Florida, Maryland and Washington State. Coastal states with higher populations (potential buyers) and more traffic. Smaller import cars sell much better than the Big Three. (more…)