Cars That California’s Rich and Famous Drive

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2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Luxury Sedan

In surveying the U.S. auto market, California is both the Wild West and the promised land for car companies. As the nation’s largest buyer of new cars , the California consumer base offers a genuine opportunity for automakers, yet stricter fuel efficiency standards shift consumer tastes toward electric vehicles and foreign cars far more than the rest of the country. That helps to explain the rise of Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) in the California luxury market, where German automakers still hold sway.

California’s top luxury models

The California Auto Outlook issued for the California New Car Dealers Associations (CNCDA) showed the Mercedes-Benz (DDAIF.PK) taking the sales prize among luxury buyers, with 17,484 cars sold in 2013. BMW’s (BMAXY.PK) 5-Series took second place, with 12,972 units sold, and it was Tesla in third, with 8,347 Model S electric vehicles moving in California in 2013. Tesla was able to handily top the sales of the Lexus (NYSE:TM) GS (5,052 cars) and Audi (VLKAY.PK) A6 (3,735 cars).

In luxury SUVs, the Lexus RX dominated in California, selling 17,799 units in 2013, more than double the number of the second-place BMW X5. Surveying the top sellers in any category, a familiar car held the top position.

It’s still the Prius’s world

California car buyers’ shift toward hybrid and electric vehicles continued in 2013. The Toyota Prius repeated as the biggest seller of any vehicle in California in 2013, the CNCDA report showed, with hybrids taking a 6.8 percent share of the total market. This number excludes all-electric cars as well as plug-in hybrids.

If the emission standards in place in California are a harbinger of things to come in the rest of the United States, automakers with hybrid and electric vehicles in the works stand to benefit. However, combustion cars with top fuel ratings are doing just fine in California.

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