Spend some time out in Los Angeles and you’ll spot a seemingly endless stream of Ferraris, Maseratis and other exotic sports cars. In fact, Southern California is the world’s largest market for high-performance Mercedes-AMG models.
But Tinseltown drivers also love their Teslas, and Toyota Prius hybrids, making L.A. one of the country’s largest markets for green machines, as well.
Just in time for Earth Day, the folks at Cars.com probed their search data to see which cities have the most eco-friendly buyers. And they were in for a few surprises. For one thing, the Top 10 was made up entirely of West Coast cities this year. And while it might seem reasonable that places like Portland, San Francisco and LA made the cut, there were some smaller cities represented as well.
“We’ve always seen that the Western U.S. shows more interest in going green, but this is the first time we’ve seen nothing east of the West Coast,” said Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder.
(Chevy will soon offer both Bolt and Volt plug-based models. Click Here for more.)
The research doesn’t reveal why demand has grown so strong out West – or perhaps why interest has waned out East. But Wiesenfelder did acknowledge that, “With low gas prices, some car shoppers are turning back to less fuel efficient cars.”
On the other hand, West Coast fuel prices tend to run higher – LA and San Francisco drivers typically paying among the highest costs in the country. Meanwhile, California regulators have passed some of the country’s toughest emissions standards, including the Zero-Emission Vehicle, or ZEV, rules that encourage use of battery-electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles.
In turn, automakers have introduced a growing number of so-called “compliance cars.” The Chevrolet Spark EV, for example, currently is sold only in California and Oregon. The basic availability of more products is likely to encourage at least some additional buyers, industry analysts suggest.
Not surprisingly, the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose megaplex ranks number one on the Cars.com green shoppers list. Eco-consciousness has become far more than a cult there. The same could be said in the relatively pastoral Monterey Peninsula which ranks second. Northern California’s pastoral Eureka is next, while Santa-Barbara and surrounds come in next on the list, followed by Los Angeles.
If there’s any place where fuel costs are even higher than LA, that’s our 50th state, Hawaii. And with few places to drive, Honolulu may be ideally suited to accept the relatively short range of most of today’s battery cars. It’s sixth on the list.
The high-tech hub of Seattle-Tacoma come in next, followed by the Sacramento region, which suggests that those California rulemakers might actually drive what they want other folks to buy. Increasingly crowded San Diego and the hipster epicenter of Portland round out the list.
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While green cars have not gained the sales momentum advocates had hoped for, editor Wiesenfelder noted that the number of models “continue(s) to proliferate.” Tesla, for example, just added a new base model to its battery-car line-up. Mercedes-Benz is preparing to launch 10 new plug-ins by 2017, Chevy is adding a 200-mile range model, the Bolt, and Honda will soon join Toyota and Hyundai with a new hydrogen car.
“There may be no better time to buy a fuel-efficient car than now, because low gas prices have reduced demand for hybrids and electrics,” he added, “resulting in special incentives from many automakers.”
(Click Here for our review of the new Tesla Model S 70d.)