Study lists most, least popular cities for American-brand car shoppers

  by Andrew Ganz

Study lists most, least popular cities for American-brand car shoppers

A new study has revealed new car shopping habits for the 51 largest metropolitan areas in the United States. 

Some clear patterns emerged from the findings, which were released by Car Gurus based on a study of inquires submitted to dealers in the largest metro areas during a 30 day period.  Buyers in the Midwestern states are far more likely to shop for American-branded cars, while those on the West Coast tend to lean more toward imported cars.  

Still, buyers in all 51 major metro areas surveyed shopped American-branded cars more often than they did Asian or European cars.

Not surprisingly, the Detroit area remains the largest market for interest in American-branded cars, with more than two-thirds of all shoppers looking at vehicles produced by the Big 3. At the opposite end of the spectrum, California's big cities took home four of the bottom five positions as far as interest in American-branded vehicles.

While the survey can be found on a PDF released by CarGurus, we parsed their data even further to determine the shopping habits of buyers across the country. Visit the next slide to see what we found.

New car shopping habits in the 10 largest metro areas in the U.S.

First, we looked at the 10 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., as determined by the federal Office of Management and Budget and the Census Bureau.

In the 10 largest metro areas, American-branded vehicles remain most popular in Dallas/Ft. Worth, Chicago and Houston. Chicago's preference for American cars isn't terribly unexpected given that it's the biggest metro area in the domestic-favoring Midwest. Meanwhile, Texas is by far the largest pickup market and the bulk of new trucks sold bear Detroit 3 badges.

South Florida's predilection for European cars shouldn't be a big shock to anyone who has cruised Beachfront Avenue, but we were a little surprised to see just how high up Washington, D.C., ranks on the Asian scale. Besting even Southern California, the nation's capital apparently buys cars from Japan and South Korea in droves. But more on that later.

The figures listed below represent the percent of inquiries CarGurus received about American, Asian and European-branded new cars.

New car shopping habits in the 10 largest metro areas in the U.S.
  1. New York - 39.80% American - 30.70% Asian - 29.50% European
  2. Los Angeles - 38.9% American - 32.07% Asian - 29.03% European
  3. Chicago - 50.94% American - 25.08% Asian - 23.98% European
  4. Dallas/Ft. Worth - 51.07% American - 25.47% Asian - 23.46% European
  5. Houston - 49.04% American - 28.05% Asian - 22.55% European
  6. Philadelphia - 47.66% American - 29.41% Asian - 22.92% European
  7. WashingtonD.C. - 43.59% American - 33.55% Asian - 22.86% European
  8. Miami/Ft. Lauderdale - 43.79% American - 26.25% Asian - 29.96% European
  9. Atlanta - 46.01% American - 30.49% Asian - 23.50% European
  10. Boston - 43.42% American - 32.09% Asian - 24.49% European

The 10 biggest markets for American-brand new car shoppers

CarGurus found that, generally speaking, the Midwest, the Plains and, oddly enough, New Orleans, are hot markets for American car shoppers.

The Midwest so strongly favors American-branded cars that only two of its metro areas failed to rank in the top 20 (Columbus, Ohio, at 21st and Chicago at 24th).

In this case, we're stretching our definition of "Midwest" to include big cities in Western New York and Pennsylvania, since they generally have more in common with the agriculture and industry-heavy Midwest than the megacities along the Eastern seaboard.

The 10 biggest markets for American-brand new car shoppers
  1. Detroit - 67.08% of shoppers inquired about American brands
  2. Cleveland - 60.93%
  3. Indianapolis - 58.97%
  4. St. Louis - 58.59%
  5. Kansas City - 58.37%
  6. Tulsa - 58.10%
  7. Milwaukee - 57.98%
  8. Rochester - 57.07%
  9. New Orleans - 56.12%
  10. Pittsburgh - 55.76%

The 10 biggest markets for Asian-brand new car shoppers

Import cars have long been strongest on coastal markets, but Washington, D.C.'s first place ranking in this survey is something of a head-scratcher. 

On one hand, the District ranked toward the bottom of the list for European-branded cars (below cities like Kansas City and Salt Lake City, which aren't exactly known as big Euro-brand market). Yet it bested even the rock solid California market in terms of interest in Asian-branded cars. 

But Asian-brand vehicles remain strong on the Mid Atlantic-New England corridor. Philadelphia, Providence and Hartford all saw above 29 percent interest in cars from Japanese and South Korean brands.  

The 10 biggest markets for Asian-brand new car shoppers
  1. Washington, D.C. - 33.55% of shoppers inquired about Asian brands
  2. San Jose - 32.69%
  3. San Diego - 32.53%
  4. San Francisco - 32.10%
  5. Boston - 32.09%
  6. Los Angeles - 32.07%
  7. Seattle - 32.04%
  8. Baltimore - 31.91%
  9. Portland - 31.38%
  10. New York - 30.70%

The 10 biggest markets for European-brand new car shoppers

Las Vegans apparently don't have much interest in Toyotas and Hondas, but they shop for European cars in droves. And if you're even vaguely familliar with the glitz and glamor of Sin City, that shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

Naturally, San Francisco also tops this list - the City by the Bay treats BMW 3-Series sedans like Detroit does Ford Focus four-doors. They're a dime a dozen.

And the city least likely to shop for a European-brand car? Rochester, New York, which has very little in common with its cross-state neighbor to the south.

The 10 biggest markets for European-brand new car shoppers
  1. San Francisco - 30.45% of shoppers inquired about European brands
  2. Miami/Ft. Lauderdale - 29.95%
  3. New York - 29.50%
  4. Las Vegas -  29.48%
  5. Los Angeles - 29.03%
  6. San Jose - 27.53%
  7. San Diego - 26.68%
  8. Providence - 25.43%
  9. Hartford - 24.90%
  10. Seattle - 24.63%