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State Bird, State Flower, State Car?

When traveling across the United States you will see many different types of cars, seeing as each state tends to like certain types.

If you were to take a list of the most popular cars in each state in the U.S., it’d be a pretty monotonous list. A bunch of Ford F-150s, some Chevy Silverado and Ram pickups, the odd Honda Accord or Toyota Camry here or there.

But we were curious: What car was the most distinctive in each state? What model of car did, say, California buy far more often than any other state in the Union? We turned to auto analyst Tom Libby of IHS Automotive to help us crunch the numbers. First, Libby pulled data about the make and model of every car sold in the U.S., and calculated the popularity of each by percentage using registration data. Then, he did the same at the state level, and compared each state to the national average.

“I compared the share for each model in, for instance, Alabama with the share of the same of model in the United States and came up with a ratio,” says Libby. “Then I basically ranked those ratios within each state. It’s an interesting methodology—you’re basically able to compare the individual demand of a model in a state with the individual demand at the national level, and see what ways is each state unique from the nation.”

Some states seem to conform to stereotypes—Texas loves the hulking Cadillac Escalade EXT, NPR-loving New England enjoys their Volvos, and in the rough country of North Dakota they love the GMC Yukon Denali XL. But there are surprises: Georgia, for instance, seems to have a thing for Nissan Leaf. “Georgia had very, very strong incentives to buy electric vehicles,” says Libby, referencing the fact that until very recently, the Peach State offered $5,000 in state tax credits (in addition to $7,500 in federal tax credits) to anyone who bought an electric vehicle. In other words, everyone who bought a Nissan Leaf in Georgia saved themselves a cool $12,500.

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