By Jim Motavalli
2:00 PM EST, December 5, 2012
Connecticut has a lot of cars on its roads, but California has at least 10 times more. In fact, just about everything in California is oversized compared to Connecticut. The bumper-to-bumper traffic, in fact, is what motivated the state to become a green leader in cutting tailpipe exhaust.
More new car purchases are made in the Golden State than anywhere else in the U.S., a total of 11 percent of all new cars each year, reports Edmunds.com. The state dwarfs so-big Texas, which has 9.6 percent of registrations.
Here's something else California and Connecticut have in common — fuel-efficient foreign car favoritism. To really put this in perspective, you need to travel to the Midwest, where it's suddenly shockingly apparent that America has a domestic auto industry. Eight of the top 10 brands sold in California are foreign. Toyota is in first place with 18.9 percent of the market, followed by Honda with 13.8. The Honda Civic is the most popular car in California — 4.4 percent of all the cars registered in the state this year are Civics. The Honda Accord and Toyota Camry are in second and third place.
Although the state economy remains stuck in the doldrums, Californians are still willing to spend a lot of money on new cars — an average transaction last year was $28,939.
And California really leads in green car sales — 32 percent of all electrics and 24.7 percent of hybrids are sold there. Not only does the state subsidize electric cars and plug-in hybrids with subsidies of up to $2,500, it also allows them as single-passenger vehicles in the HOV lanes. It's interesting that second place for EV and hybrid sales goes to Florida (6.6 percent in both categories) — all those liberal retirees, maybe?
"For automakers, California is the Promised Land," said Jessica Caldwell of Edmunds. "As a state, it generally makes up more than 11 percent of the retail auto market and is the first to embrace and adopt new trends." And that's why the popularity of electric and hybrid cars there is something to watch.
California imposes fairly draconian zero emission requirements on major automakers who sell cars there, and that's led to fleets of so-called "compliance cars" built just to satisfy the mandates. An example is the Fiat 500e, a diminutive electric car to be offered in California in mid-2013. Priced at around $35,000, it's not exactly a moneymaker for its Chrysler parent — the company says it will lose $10,000 per vehicle.
Now here's the kicker: States have the option to follow federal or California emission standards, and CT is a California state. That's one reason the 500e is likely to be sold here, and we figure in most automakers' electric dreams. Still, CT has lagged behind other states in incentives, and at last count there were only about 100 electric cars in the whole state.
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