US Car Industry – Who is Buying Domestic vs Imported? 2


In 2011, Americans spent $206 billion on new cars.  The big three US Car Manufacturers – General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford were 47% of those sales.  What type of consumer is choosing to buy domestic cars over imported ones?  Is there a difference?

The likelihood of someone owning or leasing a domestic vehicle versus an imported vehicle does vary based on where one lives as well as their socioeconomic status as well as other factors.  This piece details some of those differences.

Consumers living in the Midwest, overall, are more likely to own a domestic vehicle than someone in another part of the country.  Some of the zip codes where people are most likely to own a domestic vehicle are:

  • 66442 – For Riley, KS
  • 62225 – Scott Air Force Base, IL
  • 73503 – Fort Sill, OK
  • 85708 – Tucson, AZ
  • 30905 – Augusta, GA

Each of these zip codes have an index of 151 for domestic car ownership or lease meaning a household is 1.51 times more likely to own or lease a domestic-made vehicle than the average American.

People who live in the western part of the US, on the eastern seaboard, and in Florida ore more likely than people in other parts of the country to own or lease imported cars.  Some of the zip codes with the highest index are:

  • 10514 – Chappaqua, NY
  • 02493 – Weston, MA
  • 90263 – Malibu, CA
  • 60022 – Glencoe, IL
  • 06883 – Weston, CT

Each of these zip codes had an index of 167.  This means that a household in that area is 1.67 times more likely than the average American to own or lease an imported vehicle.

Knowing where people live can live and their tendency to purchase a particular item or type of item can be very helpful to marketers and distributors.  Knowing something about the people can be even more critical and helpful.  Esri, a geographic information systems company which also does data analysis, developed a tapestry segmentation that classifies US residential neighborhoods into 65 unique market segments based on socioeconomic and demographic characteristics.

The tapestry segments that have a high likelihood of owning or leasing a domestic vehicle are much different than ones who own or lease an imported vehicle.  There are four tapestry segments in which 100% of the census block neighborhoods where the segment dominates have an index of at least 125.  This means that people in those neighborhoods are at least 1.25 (some are much more) times more likely than the average American to own or lease a domestic vehicle.  These segments are Green Acres, Military Proximity, Prairie Living, and Salt of the Earth.  These segments are pretty different.  Green Acres neighborhoods are located throughout the country, though they are found primarily in the Midwest and South.  They live in pastoral settings of developing suburban.

There are 16 tapestry segments in which 100% of the census block neighborhoods where the segment dominates and have an index of at least 125 for households owning or leasing an imported vehicle.  These segments include Up and Coming Families, Sophisticated Squires, and Wealthy Seaboard Suburbs.  Like the neighborhoods where a household is more likely to own or lease a domestic vehicle, these neighborhoods vary greatly.  Residents of Up and Coming Families neighborhoods are young, affluent families with younger children.  Wealthy Seaboard Suburbs residents are affluent and are primarily located along the California, New York, New Jersey, and New England coasts.

LifeModes and Urbanization can also be used to classify consumers.  Segments within a LifeMode group share an experience such as being born in the same period or a trait such as affluence.   Interestingly, there are few trends of ownership behavior of domestic and imported vehicles using these metrics.  One note is that 100% of the census block neighborhoods where High Society (a LifeMode segment) residents is dominant have an index of 125 or higher for owning or leasing an imported vehicle.

More information about Esri’s tapestry segmentation can be found at http://www.esri.com/data/esri_data/tapestry.html or to learn more about Esri in general, go to www.esri.com.


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2 thoughts on “US Car Industry – Who is Buying Domestic vs Imported?

  • Erik Griswold

    Wait, I am confused: Is a car made by FIAT-subsidary Chrysler in Canada or Mexico considered to be a “domestic” car or is the Volkswagen made in Chatanooga, TN considered “imported”?

    • Pam Allison Post author

      I’m not an expert on the auto industry but here’s my understanding. Chrysler is considered domestic (despite the fact that FIAT controls it with a 58.5% ownership) and that some of its vehicles and parts are made other places. Where a car is made doesn’t matter for this discussion – it’s about the HQ of the brand. Chrysler, Ford, and GM are based in the US – so those are considered domestic vehicles. Fiat, Mercedes, BMW, Toyota, Honda, etc. are based in other countries – so those are considered imported. Therefore, yes, the Volkswagens made in TN are imported since Volkswagen is based in Germany.