Buying American used to be the only reasonable choice when purchasing a new car. Back in the 1950s, 1960s and even early 1970s, foreign car dealerships were few and far between, and most cars built elsewhere had spotty reputations for safety and durability. To generalize, British cars all suffered from electrical maladies, Japanese cars rusted through just as the warranty expired, Italian cars were only reliable until you need to be somewhere at a specific time and German cars were for the rich. Except Volkswagen, which was for hippies and college students. None of them fared well in collisions with big old American Iron, which typically had a 2x or 3x weight advantage.
Things began to change in s big way during the first gas crisis of the early 1970s. Suddenly, those Toyota Corollas, Datsun 510s and VW Beetles looked like a sensible choice. They weren’t uncomfortable, they got great mileage, and they were quite a bit more fun to drive than the land yachts Americans had been piloting. West coast shoppers embraced foreign cars without a second thought, as did buyers in the Northeast. In fact, Subaru is probably around today thanks to the loyalty of early adopters in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
Old habits die hard in union towns, and American brands never fell out of favor in former industrialized cities. It’s still less than pleasant to drive a foreign car in Detroit, but the chances of it getting vandalized are quite a bit less than they were ten or twenty years ago. Still, you’re not going to get a prime parking spot at a Ford plant if you drive a VW, and the same holds true at GM and Chrysler.
Which cities are the most loyal to domestic brands when car shopping? Here are the top ten:
1. Detroit, 67% interest in domestic brands
2. St. Louis, 67% interest in domestic brands
3. Cleveland, 59% interest in domestic brands
4. Milwaukee, 58% interest in domestic brands
5. Tulsa, 57% interest in domestic brands
6. Indianapolis, 56% interest in domestic brands
7. Louisville, 55% interest in domestic brands
8. Pittsburgh, 54% interest in domestic brands
9. Minneapolis, 53% interest in domestic brands
10. Memphis, 52% interest in domestic brands
On the other side of that coin are cities that have no allegiance to American brands. The bottom ten are:
50. Los Angeles, 27% interest in domestic brands
49. San Francisco, 27% interest in domestic brands
48. San Diego, 27% interest in domestic brands
47. San Jose, 29% interest in domestic brands
46. Phoenix, 32% interest in domestic brands
45. New York, 32% interest in domestic brands
44. Boston, 33% interest in domestic brands
43. Seattle, 34% interest in domestic brands
42. Salt Lake City, 34% interest in domestic brands
41. Miami, 34% interest in domestic brands
Want some irony? In Washington D.C., our nation’s capital, only 35% of buyers are interested in domestic cars. Their preference, at 42%, is Asian brands.