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Detroit automakers still lag import cars in California sales

October 25, 2011 | 11:00 am

Honda Civic is the best selling car in California. American car manufacturers are making some sales gains in California, but new data from a statewide trade group show they lag far behind the import brands.

The Detroit auto companies are expected to have about 32% of the California market this year, up from just under 30% in 2010, according to the California New Car Dealers Assn. report.

Jeep, GMC, Ford and Chevrolet all are seeing double-digit growth in vehicle registrations statewide.

But only the Ford Fusion cracked the list of the 20 bestselling passenger-car models in California through the first nine months of this year.  And it was way down the list, ranking 17th, according to the report.

Led by the Honda Civic -- some versions are built at a factory in Indiana -- every other car on the list was an import brand. Rounding out the top five are the Honda Accord, and Toyota’s Camry, Prius and Corolla. Both the Accord and the Camry are built in the U.S.

One reason is that consumers believe the Japanese brands are more reliable than the American nameplates.  This perception has been reinforced by Consumer Reports, which in its just-released reliability ratings said Japanese and South Korean brands were the most reliable, followed by the American manufacturers.

German brands also sell well in California. Volkswagen’s Jetta was No. 6, and the BMW 3 Series sedans were seventh.

Domestic makes did better in the truck, minivan and SUV segment, which accounts for about 40% of the market.

Honda’s CRV, a small crossover, was the top seller, followed by Ford’s F series and Chevrolet’s Silverado, both big pickup trucks. They were followed by Toyota’s Tacoma truck and its Sienna van, and then the Lexus RX 350 SUV.

The dealers group expects to see 1.3-million light-vehicle registrations in California this year, up about 11% from 2010. The California auto market has seen growth now for nine consecutive quarters.

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-- Jerry Hirsch

Twitter.com/LATimesJerry

Photo: Honda's Civic is the best selling vehicle in California. Credit: Associated Press.

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