India October 2014: Maruti Ciaz takes off to Top 10!

Maruti Ciaz India October 2014. Picture courtesy of zigwheels.com2For its 2nd month in market the Maruti Ciaz breaks into the Indian Top 10.

* See the Top 60 best-selling models and Top 14 brands by clicking on the title! *

The Dusshera and Diwali festivals is traditionally an auspicious season a lot of car buyers wait until to make their purchase. Not this year. The Indian car market is down 5% year-on-year to 216,808 registrations, however the year-to-date total is still in positive land at 2,097,750 units, up 2% on 2013. Out of the Top 14 manufacturers in the country, only Maruti (+1%), Hyundai (+6%), Honda (+18%) and Fiat (+13%) gain ground year-on-year, with the other 10 in the red including Skoda (-40%), Nissan (-43%) and Chevrolet (-47%).

Last week, the zero stars scored by both the Maruti Swift and Datsun Go at the Global NCAP crash tests made the news and prompted Global NCAP Max Mosley to publicly ask Carlos Ghosn to withdraw the Datsun Go from the Indian market! Max Mosley also said: “India has the potential to be a world leader in the automobile industry, but Indian consumers are not aware of how unsafe they are in case of a crash. We are pleased that India is launching an NCAP consumer testing programme. If this happens, every new car sold in India would have a proper crash structure and airbags.” See the harrowing crash tests above. It will be interesting to see how much impact these horrendous results will have on Indian sales. For now the Maruti Swift is down 31% on September to #4 as consumers await the refreshed model and the Datsun Go is back up 33% to a still tiny 1,354 units and 0.6% share vs. 1,654 for the Tana Nano.

Tata Zest India October 2014. Picture courtesy of motoroids.comFirst Top 20 ranking for the Tata Zest at home.

The Maruti Alto tops the Indian models sales charts for the 10th time in the past 12 months thanks to 21,443 sales and just under 10% share, while the Swift DZire is very robust once again at 17,950 units and 8.3%, cementing its #2 YTD rank. The Maruti Wagon R benefits from the weak performance of the Swift to climb to #3, the Mahindra Bolero is up one spot to #5 and the Hyundai Elite i20 is the brand’s best-seller in India for the 2nd straight month at #6 ahead of the Grand i10 at #7 and the Eon at #8. The big news in the models ranking this month however is the amazing 9th spot of the all-new Maruti Ciaz. It sold 1,375 units in September for its first month but wasn’t reported at the time, and now surges to 6,345 sales in October!

Maruti Ciaz India October 2014. Picture courtesy of zigwheels.comMaruti Ciaz

This is Maruti’s first entry in the compact sedan category and the Ciaz already smashes all its competitors, including the Honda City at which it is squarely aimed: the City ranks 13th with 5,124 sales this month, with all other competitors in the segment way below: the Hyundai Verna is #31 at 2,248 units, the VW Vento is #37 with 1,533 sales and the Skoda Rapid is #43 at 1,047 units. Another newcomer that is worth following carefully is the small sedan Tata Zest on whose slim shoulders rest the future of the brand, no less. The Zest breaks into the Indian Top 20 for the first time in October at #20 with sales up 6% on last month to a best-ever but still relatively shy 3,524 units.

Previous month: India September 2014: Hyundai Elite i20 up to 5th place

One year ago: India October 2013: Hyundai Grand i10 & Honda Amaze beat records, Nissan Terrano lands

Full October 2014 Top 60 models and 14 brands Ranking Tables below.

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USA October 2014: Honda CR-V up 30% to 5th place

Honda CR-V USA October 2014. Picture courtesy of motortrend.comHonda CR-V

* NOW UPDATED with the Top 367 models, Top 38 brands and Top 15 groups *

U.S. light vehicle sales have settled into a very dynamic groove, up another 6% year-on-year both in October to 1.28 million units and year-to-date at 13.72 million units. Crossovers and pickup trucks fuelled much of the market increase, lifting the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate (SAAR) to 16.5 million units, up from 15.4 million a year ago. The SAAR has now topped 16 million every month since March, peaking at 17.5 million last August, the highest since January 2006. Complete analysis will follow shortly. This is simply and impressively the strongest month of October in a decade in the US. Moreover, average incentives seem to have settled down to a more manageable 8% of average transaction prices after surging earlier in the year: up 2% year-on-year but down 12% on September to $2,629. Caldwell of Edmunds.com said through Automotive News “This sales pace will likely remain steady through the end of the year. With declining gas prices and strong truck and SUV sales, the industry is poised for a very busy holiday season.”

Ram 1500 USA October 2014. Picture courtesy of motortrend.comRam 1500 – Fiat Chrysler celebrates 55 consecutive months of year-on-year gains!

Leading the groups ranking, General Motors certainly didn’t help lift the market up however (+0.2%), with retail sales down 2%, fleet up 6% and Cadillac down 8%. Ford is down 2% (but Lincoln up 25% thanks to the MKC) while Toyota reclaims its #3 group spot at +7% with a 12th consecutive month of year-on-year gains for Lexus. The Fiat Chrysler Group shines brightly once again, marking an unbelievable 55 consecutive months of year-on-year increases, with Jeep up 52%, Ram up 36% and Chrysler up 17%. According to Edmunds.com senior analyst Jessica Caldwell, “Chrysler is on a streak of growth that’s virtually unheard of for American carmakers. The company’s renewed focus on SUVs comes at a perfect time when gas prices are plummeting and shoppers are falling back in love with large vehicles” as reported on Autonews.

Audi A3 USA October 2014. Picture courtesy of motortrend.comAudi A3 – Audi now stands at 46 consecutive months of record sales!

The Honda brand sets a new October record at 105,745 units, lifted by the facelifted CR-V up 30% year-on-year to an historic 5th place and a new October record by the Fit up 83%. “The success of the new Fit is an important step in re-establishing small cars as a pillar in the Honda lineup,” Jeff Conrad, Honda Division general manager, said on Autonews. Similarly, the Nissan brand hit a new October record at 94,072 units (+15%), the 13th consecutive month it has set a new monthly record. Other brands setting October records this month include Kia up 12% to 44,694, Subaru up 25% to 43,012 (its 35th consecutive month of year-on-year gains) and Audi up 17% and lodging an incredible 46th consecutive month of record sales!  Notice also Volkswagen ending 18 consecutive months of sales declines at +8% thanks to the new Jetta (#21) and 2015 Golf (up 81% to #88), Mitsubishi up 25%, Maserati up 105% and BMW up 11%.

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71The Chevrolet Colorado is initiating is climb back up the models charts…

Model-wise, the Ford F-Series holds up solidly at -1% to 63,410 sales, keeping in mind none of these are the new gen F-150 and that rebates on the outgoing model remain limited. On the other hand, other full sized pick-up trucks fare exceptionally well: the Chevrolet Silverado is up 10% to 46,966 units, along with the GMC Sierra up 18% making it the 3rd consecutive month GM full size pickups (65,530) outsell the F-Series. Boosted by the ecoDiesel variant I have been driving across the country, the Ram Pickup delivers once again the most impressive increase in the segment, up 33% to remain in third place while all-new Chevy Colorado (1,491 sales) and GMC Canyon (667) see their return in the ranking slowed by an early recall.

Jeep Cherokee USA October 2014. Picture courtesy of motortrend.comFirst Top 20 ranking for this generation Jeep Cherokee.

The Toyota Camry reclaims the passenger car crown after two months of Honda Accord domination at 33,164 units (+14%) vs. 27,128 (+8%) for the Accord while the Corolla is back above the Civc at #7, the Chevy Cruze is up an impressive 51% to #9, the Nissan Sentra up 56%, Subaru Outback up 55%, Chrysler 200 up 40% and Kia Soul up 30%. I have spoken about this model a lot lately but the fact is it keeps improving month after month: in October the Jeep Cherokee breaks into the US Top 20 for the first time for this generation at a record #17, also the brand’s best-seller above the Grand Cherokee (#19) and Wrangler (#23).

Mercedes GLA USA October 2014. Picture courtesy of motortrend.comUS October sales of Mercedes GLA are double that of September.

Further down, some recent newcomers continue to sparkle while others dampen off already: the Acura TLX is up 26% and 13 spots on September to #76 and 4,890 sales, the Ford Transit is up 84% and 33 ranks to #128 and 2,257 units, the Lincoln MKC up 25% and 10 spots to #129 and 2,197 sales, the Mercedes GLA up 103% and 38 ranks to #136, the BMW i3 up 13% to #169, Porsche Macan up 6% at #190, BMW i8 up 252% to #23 and Cadillac ELR up 37% to #242. Reversely, the Audi A3 is up just 1% to 2,380 units, the Audi Q3 down 38% and BMW X4 down 6%.

Previous post: USA 9 months 2014: Discover the Top 275 best-selling models

Previous month (models): USA September 2014 Chevy Silverado and Nissan Sentra on fire

Previous month (brands): USA September 2014: GM fleet, Jeep lift market up, Big 3 back to Top 3

One year ago: USA October 2013: Podium 100% pick-ups for the first time in 8 years!

Full October 2014 Top 367 models, Top 38 brands, Top 15 groups Ranking Tables below.

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Philippines September 2014: Toyota Wigo & Mitsu Mirage G4 up

Toyota Wigo Philippines September 2014. Picture courtesy of carguide.phToyota Wigo

* See the Top 143 All-models and Top 25 brands by clicking on the title! Thanks Myk *

Nothing can stop the Filipino new car market this year: up another 41% to 23,895 registrations in September, which lifts the year-to-date total to a record 194,816 units, up 13% on 2013. Brand-wise, Toyota manages to outperform the market with sales up 44% to 9,529 units for almost 40% market share, ahead of Mitsubishi (+30%), Hyundai (+34%), Ford (+63%) and Honda (+54%). The Toyota Vios remains the most popular nameplate by far thanks to 2,475 sales for a mammoth 10.4% market share, followed by the Toyota Innova at 6%, the Mitsubishi Montero Sport at 5.6% and the Toyota Fortuner at 5.5%. The Hiace and Wigo, up one further spot to a best-ever 6th place with 4.2% share, make it 5 Toyotas in the Top 6. The Mitsubishi Mirage G4 (aka Attrage) also shines, up 5 ranks to #7, as do the Ford Ecosport at #15, the Chevrolet Spin at #28 and Suzuki Ertiga at #32.

Previous month: Philippines August 2014: Toyota Wigo up to 7th place

One year ago: Philippines September 2013: Toyota Vios breaks record for 2nd consecutive month

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Mexico October 2014: Nissan March at highest in two years

Nissan March Mexico October 2014Nissan March

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Mexican new car sales have never been in better shape: up 14% year-on-year in October to 100,923 registrations, the 4th consecutive month of double digit year-on-year gains. This is the best ever October on record and first time sales for this month top the symbolic 100,000 units-mark. Year-to-dater, the market is up 6% to 890.941 units and should finish 2014 around 1.13-1.14 million sales, keeping in mind the all-time record year for Mexico is 2006 when 1.139.718 deliveries occurred. The market will have to push up 13% over the last two months of the year to beat this record – to be compared with a 15% gain over the past 3 months… Mexico is the only country in the world where Nissan is #1, and the Japanese carmaker further cements this status this month by largely out-performing the market with sales up 23% to 26.6% share.

Hyundai Elantra. Picture courtesy of motortrend.com6 months after the brand’s launch in Mexico, Hyundai is almost in the Top 10.

Other great performing brands include Toyota up 27%, Mazda up 45%, Hyundai beating its record again at 1,812 sales and 1.8% share (only 48 units off a Top 10 ranking), Suzuki up 36% and Infiniti up 95%. In the models ranking, the podium returns to its YTD order with the Chevrolet Aveo (-6%), Nissan Versa (+16%) and Tsuru (stable) in the lead, the VW Vento is back to its best-ever ranking at #4 and the Nissan March reaches its best position in Mexico since December 2012 at #5 thanks to sales doubling compared to October 2013 to 3,659 units and 3.6% share. Nissan places 6 models in the Top 9 with the Sentra (+31%) and Tiida (+20%) also performing very well.

Previous month: Mexico September 2014: Chevrolet Spark confirms podium spot

One year ago: Mexico October 2013: Chevrolet Aveo reclaims pole position

Full October 2014 Top 10 models and Top 30 brands Ranking Tables below.

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UK October 2014: Nissan Juke smashes ranking record at #5

Nissan Juke UK October 2014. Picture courtesy of turbo.frBest-ever UK ranking for the Nissan Juke in October.

* See the Top 10 best-selling models and Top 42 brands by clicking on the title! *

That the UK new car market is enjoying its longest period on continuous growth ever (32 consecutive month) is one thing, but that it keeps exceeding predictions is another. Its 14% year-on-year growth in October took everyone by surprise, myself included, lifting the monthly total to 179,714 units and the YTD score to 2,137,910, up 9.5% on 2013. Sales over 10 months in 2014 are the highest since 2006, already above the Full Year scores in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and crossing the 2 million mark at this stage of the year for the first time since 2007.

MG6 UK October 2014MG sales are up 422% year-on-year in the UK.

Below Ford evolving like the market at +14% and Vauxhall frankly under-performing despite the loss of the Chevrolet brand at -5%, Volkswagen (+23%), Audi (+20%), Nissan (+43%) and BMW (+24%) all post indecent gains. Other over-performing manufacturers in the UK this month include Mini (+35%) up to #13 vs. #19 YTD, Renault (+26%), Volvo (+42%), Dacia (+42%), Mitsubishi (+306%), Lexus (+52%), Porsche (+33%), Subaru (+106%), MG (+422%) and Maserati (+203%).

Nissan Qashqai UK October 2014. Picture courtesy of largus.frThe Nissan Qashqai makes it two Japanese models in the UK Top 6 this month.

The Top 4 best-selling models in the UK in October are identical to the YTD ranking: the Ford Fiesta dominates with 5.1% share, ahead of the Ford Focus up a splendid 40% on October 2013, the Vauxhall Corsa up 20% and the VW Golf up 25%. In 5th position, the locally-made Nissan Juke smashes its previous ranking record (#7 in October 2013), making its first appearance in the UK Top 10 since last April and its first ever time among the country’s 5 most popular vehicles. This is potentially the result of a combination of the outgoing model being rebated and the refreshed 2015 version hitting dealerships. In the process the Juke also outsells the Qashqai, its Sunderland factory buddy, for the very first time in the UK – albeit by just 24 units.

Mini UK October 2014. Picture courtesy of largus.frMini sales are up 35% year-on-year in the UK.

Fresh from celebrating its record-breaking 2 millionth UK unit produced – the fastest to do so in the history of UK automobile, the Qashqai is up 4 spots on September to #6, making it two Nissans in the UK Top 6 for the first time in history and to my knowledge two Japanese models in the UK Top 6 for the first time ever as well. The VW Polo astoundingly almost doubles its sales year-on-year (+93%) to 3,968 units and 2.2% in 7th place, ahead of the Audi A3 now a regular in the Top 10 at #8. Thanks to the new model, the Mini reappears in the UK Top 10 for the 2nd time in the past 4 months at #9 while the Vauxhall Astra uncharacteristically dives down to #10, the nameplate’s lowest ever monthly ranking in the country.

Previous month: UK September 2014: Fiat 500 hits record #6 in best September in a decade

One year ago: UK October 2013: Nissan Juke up to all-time high #7

Full October 2014 Top 10 models and Top 42 brands Ranking Tables below.

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New Caledonia October 2014: Dacia Sandero up to #5

Dacia Sandero New Caledonia October 2014. Picture courtesy of largus.frDacia Sandero

* See the Top 40 best-selling models and Top 30 brands by clicking on the title! Thanks Stéphane *

Another very encouraging month new car sales in New Caledonia, a French territory located North-East of Australia: up a splendid 18% year-on-year in October to 821 registrations, bringing the year-to-date total to 8,344 units, now down just 0.1% or 8 units on 2013. At this rate we will be well into positive territory YTD by the time November comes to an end. This is in stark contrast with metropolitan France (-4% in October). French manufacturers don’t dominate here: Ford leads the brands ranking with 13.5% ahead of Renault at 9.9%, Dacia at 9.3%, Kia at 7.3% and Chevrolet at 7.1% with Citroen at #7 and Peugeot at #9. The Ford Ranger continues to dominate the models ranking without much competition at 9.5% share this month vs. 4.1% for the #2 the Dacia Duster. Notice the Dacia Sandero jumping from outside the September Top 50 directly to #5, the Mazda BT-50 up to #9, the Chevrolet Aveo sedan up to #13 and the Renault Trafic up to #18.

Previous month: New Caledonia September 2014: Citroen C4 Cactus up to #4!

One year ago:New Caledonia October 2013: Mitsubishi Montero almost in Top 10

Full October 2014 Top 30 brands and Top 50 models Ranking Tables below.

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Brazil October 2014: Fiat Palio on verge of historical achievement

Fiat Palio Way Brazil October 2014. Picture courtesy of imguol.comFiat Palio Fire Way

* See the Top 150 models and Top 20 brands by clicking on the title! Thanks Marcelo *

The Brazilian new light vehicle market is stuck in muddy waters this year, down another 7% year-on-year in October to 291,412 registrations, which brings the year-to-date total to 2,695,393 units, down a terse 9% on 2013. Thanks to sales down just 4% on October 2013 to 58,899 units, Fiat maintains itself above 20% share ahead of Chevrolet at 17.6% (-16%) and Volkswagen at 16.9% (-13%) with Volkswagen holding for dear life onto the #2 spot YTD, a mere 2.500 units above Chevrolet. Hyundai bucks the overall market trend at +6% and 7.3% share vs. 5.6% one year ago, Toyota is up an even more impressive 19% to 6.5% share thanks to solid performances of the Corolla (+17%), Etios hatch (+66%) and sedan (+60%), Nissan gains 6%, Audi improves by a huge 112%, Mercedes by 111% and BMW by 27%.

Chevrolet Onix Brazil October 2014. Picture courtesy of autossegredos.com.brThe Chevrolet Onix outsells the VW Gol again and ranks #2 for the first time.

The Brazilian models ranking continues its fascinating reshuffle. The trends at play are all once in a decade (or more) occurrences and they are all happening at the same time. The Fiat Palio celebrates 5 consecutive months in pole position, helped by the tremendous success of the budget previous generation, the Palio Fire and especially its Fire Way variant. The Palio nameplate sells 16,622 units for a 5.7% share, up 25% on October 2013. Before this streak started back in June, the best the Palio had done in Brazil in its 18-year career was two consecutive months at #1 and a total of 4 lonely stints in first place: in November 97September 06, October 06, and August 07. The stranglehold the VW Gol had on the Brazilian market for the past two decades seemed unbreakable. It wasn’t.

VW Gol Special Brazil October 2014Too little too late? The bare bones VW Gol Special launched this month.

And it gets more interesting: with a 4.167 sales advantage over the Gol in October, the Palio is now only 1.798 units below the Gol YTD and at this rate should overtake it by next week. This would be the first time the Palio ever leads a YTD ranking in Brazil since its launch in 1996. The Gol is down 43% and stuck at a very unfamiliar #4 spot, while Volkswagen has been surprisingly slow to replace the previous generation budget Gol G4 (the equivalent of the Palio Fire) whose production ended at the end of 2013. Only in October did VW launch the bare bones Gol Special starting at R$ 27.990 for the 2 door with manual windows and mirrors, optional power steering, washer and rear window wipers and sound system. Brace yourselves for two months of cutthroat battle fuelled by incentives to secure the coveted title of best-selling model in the country…

Ford Ka Brazil October 2014The Ford Ka is now among Brazil’s 10 most popular vehicles.

Another milestone awaits in 2nd place: the Chevrolet Onix, launched two years ago with the sole aim of teasing the seemingly unattainable Gol, has now outsold its target two months in a row. With 13,590 sales and 4.7% share, it breaks its monthly ranking record in Brazil this month and is only outsold by the Fiat Palio. The Fiat Strada for its part continues on its astounding course this year with sales up 52% on October 2013 to 13,381 units at #3. The new generation Ford Ka is clicking with Brazilian customers: it breaks into the Top 10 at #8 with sales up 536% year-on-year on the previous model, and the Ka Sedan has now landed in the ranking at #64 with 881 units. Finally, notice the Chevrolet Prisma overtaking the Fiat Siena at #10 for the sedan crown and the VW Up now at it 8th consecutive month inside the Top 15.

More data will be uploaded shortly.

Previous month: Brazil September 2014: VW Gol down to #4, Ford Ka up to #12

One year ago: Brazil October 2013: Honda Civic hits highest ranking in 5 years

Full October 2014 Top 150 models and Top 20 brands Ranking Tables below.

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Argentina October 2014: Toyota Hilux new leader

2014 Toyota Hilux InvincibleToyota Hilux

* See the Top 195 best-selling models and Top 35 brands by clicking on the title! *

Yet another depressing month for new vehicle sales in Argentina, down a horrible 42% year-on-year in October to 47,608 registrations, which brings the year-to-date total to 605,168 units, down 27% on 2013. Volkswagen lodges an exceptional month at 21.8% share thanks to sales down ‘just’ 25% and compared to the 15.9% it commands YTD. Ford remains in 2nd place at 13.6%, ahead of Toyota up 3 spots to #3 and 12.5%, Peugeot at 11.9% and Chevrolet down 67% to 10.1%. For the first time ever, the Toyota Hilux is the best-selling vehicle in the country thanks to 2,652 sales and a massive 5.6% market share vs. 3.9% YTD. The VW Gol Trend is also well above its YTD level at 5.4% vs. 4.1% and cements its pole position in 2014 so far while the VW Suran brilliantly holds itself within the podium for the 2nd consecutive month whereas it only ranks 10th YTD. Other great performers in Argentina this month include the Peugeot 208 at #4 vs. #8 YTD, the Toyota Corolla at #7 vs. #17, VW Up up a further 5 ranks to #16 vs. #44 YTD and the Honda City at #27 vs. #51.

Previous month: Argentina September 2014: Ford Fiesta jumps to top spot

One year ago: Argentina October 2013: VW Gol Trend #1, Toyota Etios in Top 20

Full October 2014 Top 35 brands and Top 195 models Ranking Tables below.

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South Korea September 2014: Now with Top 185 All-models!

Mercedes GLA South Korea September 2014The Mercedes GLA jumps straight into the Korean Top 50 for its 2nd month of sales.

* See the Top 185 All-models and Top 30 brands by clicking on the title! Thanks Falkonz *

A new monthly update on BSCB, I can now share with you All-brands and All-models rankings for South Korea, including imports. 127.627 new light vehicles found a buyer in the country in September, of these 17,027 were imports, a gargantuan 34% year-on-year increase. In the brands sales charts, below the 5 locals (Hyundai, Kia, GM South Korea, Renault Samsung and SsangYong), Mercedes overtakes BMW to become the best-selling imported brand thanks to 3,538 units and 2.8% share vs. 3,303 and 2.6% for BMW. In 8th place overall, Audi is above Volkswagen anew, followed by Toyota, Lexus, Ford, Land Rover, Mini and Jeep.

Lincoln MKC South Korea September 2014Lincoln MKC

Model-wise, this month the Mercedes E-Class is head and shoulders above the competition as far as imported models are concerned: it ranks #22 with 1,683 sales and 1.3% share, the only import to sell more than 1,000 units… The BMW 5 Series follows at #29 and 912 sales, ahead of the Audi A6 (#30) and BMW 3 Series (#32). The most spectacular progression is delivered by the Mercedes GLA, up 80 ranks on last month to break into the South Korean Top 50 for its 2nd month of sales at #50 and 424 units! Notice also the BMW X4 up 41 spots to #102 and the Lincoln MKC making its very first appearance at #132 with 31 sales.

Previous post: South Korea October 2014: Seoul Photo Report

Previous September post: South Korea September 2014: New Kia Sorento shoots up to #3

Previous month: South Korea August 2014: Now with the Top 190 All-models ranking!

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USA Coast to Coast 2014: Driving the Old Route 66 (Part 1)

1. Ram 1500 Albert Route 66Albert on the Route 66 in Tucumcari New Mexico. 

* You can check out all my Coast to Coast Reports here! *

This is it! After stopping in Oklahoma City, we are now on one of my most anticipated stretches of road in this entire trip: the Old Route 66, or the Mother Road as it is fondly called. Even though I didn’t have enough time to drive Route 66 in its entire length from Chicago to Los Angeles, I still managed to hop on it for a good 1/3 of its length, all the way from Oklahoma City OK to Gallup NM, driving alongside Interstate 40 which ended up replacing it and visiting places such as Clinton OK, Texola OK, Shamrock TX, Amarillo TX, Tucumcari NM and Albuquerque NM. We will hop back onto Route 66 later in this Coast to Coast trip in California. A thorough visit of this part of Route 66 full of photographs as well as my impressions on the vehicle landscape in this region of the United States are below.

Route 66 mapThe stretch of Route 66 we are following

This part of Route 66, arguably the most ‘historic’ as this is where it all started, sweeps through 3 states: Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. Although New Mexico car sales data will be covered in more detail in my next Report, it is worth noting that looking at the Top 5 best-sellers in each of these states, a passenger car only appears once: the Toyota Camry at #4 in Texas. Indeed the entire Top 5 in both Oklahoma and New Mexico are monopolised by full-size pickup trucks, the first two states displaying this since the start of my Coast to Coast trip.

Ford F150 F250 Route 66Ford F150 and F250 Super Duty in Sayre OK

Best-selling light vehicles in Oklahoma – 2013:

Pos Model 2013
1 Chevrolet Silverado 13,994
2 Ford F-150 11,517
3 Ram Pickup 9,762
4 Ford F-250 Super Duty 4,932
5 GMC Sierra 4,712

Source: JATO

Ford F250 x 2 Route 662 x Ford F-250 Super Duty in Elk City OK

Chevrolet Silverado Route 66 1A Chevrolet Silverado in our mirror near Elk City OK

Best-selling light vehicles in Texas – 2013:

Pos Model 2013
1 Ford F-150 96,663
2 Chevrolet Silverado 78,047
3 Ram Pickup 67,378
4 Toyota Camry 36,953
5 Ford F-250 Super Duty 33,305

Source: JATO

Ram 2500 Route 66Ram 2500 in Elk City OK

Ford F250 Shamrock 2Ford F-250 Super Duty in Shamrock TX

Best-selling light vehicles in New Mexico – 2013:

Pos Model 2013
1 Ford F-150 4,757
2 Chevrolet Silverado 3,601
3 Ram Pickup 3,368
4 GMC Sierra 2,214
5 Ford F-250 Super Duty 1,837

Source: JATO

Matt Route 66You know you’re in full-size pickup heartland when the squeegees are also full-size.

If the Ford F-150 dominates in Texas and New Mexico, the Chevrolet Silverado, #2 in both states, takes the lead in Oklahoma, kicking the F-150 to #2 there. The Ram Pickup, my very own Albert, remains very stable in third position of all states explored here while the Ford F-250 Super Duty manages the very impressive feat of ranking inside the Top 5 in all of these states as well, peaking at #4 in Oklahoma. The GMC Sierra appears twice: at #4 in New Mexico (its best state ranking so far in this trip) and #5 in Oklahoma, and finally as I mentioned above the Toyota Camry makes a lonely appearance at #4 in Texas.

Dodge Pickup Route 66Vintage Dodge Pickup near Foss OK

That is for official stats, but what does real life observation tell us? Having the opportunity to slow down and take the secondary road that the remnants of Route 66 have become enables us to take in the sleepiness of most towns we crossed. This is the heartland of pickup country, 2 or 3 pickup trucks of various ages parked in front of each house and no sedan in sight isn’t rare. The 2-door white ‘tradesman’ Ford F150 rules here, the F250 Super Duty is even over performing on its Top 5 ranking in the parts of the states we crossed, I would put it on the podium and even potentially in first place in Elk City OK. Even though we were in Texas for part of the journey, the locally-produced Toyota Tundra is much less frequent on this stretch of land as is the Nissan Altima, reversing a trend we have seen since Tennessee and as we approached the Mexican border.

7. Chevrolet Impala Route 66Chevrolet Impala rental in Elk City OK

Being a particularly touristic part of Route 66, the ratio of rental cars is on a steep rising curve, with the favourites being the Chevrolet Suburban, Tahoe and Impala. This isn’t any different to what I have seen on American roads since my departure from New York City.

Now that we have cleared the vehicle landscape in this part of the country, let’s get straight into Route 66 highlights, starting with a bit of history on this legendary stretch of road, courtesy of the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton OK, a very authentic, thorough and friendly-manned little museum way more interesting than its larger, commercial and fake-looking counterpart a few miles further down the Route in Elk City OK.

Route 66 ca. 1920Road conditions on Rock Island railroad crossing OK ca. 1920 (Picture courtesy ODOT)

The beginning

The numerical designation 66 wasn’t assigned to the Chicago-to-Los Angeles route before 1926, but the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum traces the history of the first paved road system in Oklahoma, the foundation of what would become U.S. Route 66. $1 million was allocated in 1917 for the construction of the Oklahoma state road system, with the first paving laid in 1918 on a stretch that would later be Route 66. From the outset, public road planners intended U.S. 66 to connect the main streets of rural and urban communities along its course for the most practical of reasons: most small towns had no prior access to a major national thoroughfare.

IMG_9968Paving an Oklahoma section of what would become Route 66, ca. 1920

Paving and traffic growth

U.S. 66 was first signed into law in 1927 as one of the original U.S. Highways. Much of the early highway was gravel or graded dirt. Due to the efforts of the U.S. Highway 66 Association established by Tulsa businessman Cyrus Avery, Route 66 became the first U.S. highway to be completely paved in 1938. Traffic grew because of the geography through which it passed: much of the highway was essentially flat and made it a popular truck route. In the aftermath of the Great Depression of 1929, a large part of unemployed workers found their salute in the construction and paving of Route 66, and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s saw many farming families, mainly from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, and Texas, heading west on the Route 66 course for agricultural jobs in California.

AAA service station Route 66 1930AAA Route 66 service station in St James MO ca. 1930

Being the first truly long distance highway in the U.S., Route 66 encouraged the development of more than a few iconic highway habits that are still at play today…

The filling station

One of them is the filling station: on a road that stretched for over 2000 miles, gas stations became a necessity. Before the establishment of dedicated gasoline stations, fuel was purchased at liveries, repair shops or general stores. The drivers poured gas into buckets and then funnelled it into their gas tanks. By the 1920s, with the growing popularity of the automobile, filling stations became the lifeline of Route 66. One could not travel along Route 66 without stopping at a filling station approximately every 70 miles because cars had smaller gas tanks then. Between 1920 and 1930 the number of gas stations in the U.S. increased from 15,000 to 124,000. They evolved from the simplest concept, a house or shack with one or two service pumps in front to a more elaborate model with service bays and tired outlets, selling a particular brand of gasoline.

First Parking meter Oklahoma City 1935The first parking meters in the world were installed in Oklahoma City on 16 July 1935 (above).

The parking meter

With the increase of traffic generated by Route 66, businesses began to develop along Main Street and the need for parking became an issue. In order to control parking and to encourage turnover of users, a method of device had to be created to curb the problem. Two professors of engineering from Oklahoma State University devised the parking meter as a viable solution to the increasing need for Main Street parking control. The first of their meters was installed in Oklahoma City on 16 July 1935 as part of a 175-meter experiment. They proved very successful and were soon implemented all over town. The rest is, well… history. Because it was relatively easy to abuse a parking meter system, many town established patrolling meter person which became a hot topic along Route 66.

Truck Route 66 1940Capital Steel & Foundation truck in a no passing zone of Route 66 east of Oklahoma City ca. 1940

Commerce

One of the earliest arguments for new and better roads such as Route 66 was commerce, and it did not take long for truckers to take advantage of new opportunities. With the inability of the railroad system to handle the growing volume of traffic during World War II, over-the-road trucking traffic increased. Paved roads opened small towns and rural consumers to efficient and low-cost truck delivery. Of the 25.000 trucks registered in Oklahoma in 1926, most used the paved highways and competed directly with the railroads. Responding to complaints from railroad companies the state legislature passed a regulatory law in 1929 that set truck rates and routes.

Oklahoma buses 1940

Bus travel

The bus industry, born in the early 1920s, boomed during the 1930s and 1940s. Bus lines had to get permits from the State Corporation to operate over fixed routes. Bus stops were located at gas stations, hotels, grocery stores and restaurants. The bus driver stopped if a flag was hanging outside, the flag later replaced by a light. Bus traffic increased dramatically during World War II and peaked after the war. In 1944, Oklahoma was served by 31 bus companies, with the heaviest traffic located along Route 66. Several towns on the Mother Road, such as Oklahoma City and Tulsa, had as many as eight different bus companies serving their area.

Burma-Shave advertising Route 66Iconic Burma-Shave advertising signs on Route 66

Snow Cap Drive-In Route 66Snow Cap Drive-In in Seligman AZ

Blue Swallow Motel 1939The Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari NM was created in 1939

Oklahoma Roadside Park Route 66Route 66 sign for Roadside park in Oklahoma

Motels

Route 66 was affected by the expanding economy and middle-class vacationers. This led to several changes – the most dramatic was the expansion of the variety of overnight accommodations. In the 1920s, local merchants had set aside campsites near downtown business districts to keep potential customers nearby. Entrepreneurs quickly developed additional camp areas with services, on the edges of towns. Campsite cabins were soon equipped with cots, chairs, and camp stoves, costing from 50c to 74c per night. By 1926, most cabins included a bed, table, benches and water pitcher. Check out my review of the best motel chains in the U.S. as part of this Coast to Coast series here.

Route 66 sign

The end

The beginning of the end for Route 66 came in 1956 with the signing of the Interstate Highway Act by President Dwight Eisenhower who was influenced by his appreciation of the German Autobahn network as a necessary component of a national defense system. Super highways, with divided lanes, limited access and no Stop signs were first built along Route 66 in California and Illinois. In 1976, when the states of California, Illinois and Missouri removed the old 66 shields from the road, the Mother Road ceased to exist as a continuous stretch of highway. In 1984, Arizona also saw its final stretch of highway decommissioned with the completion of Interstate 40 just north of Williams, Arizona. The U.S. Route 66 officially ceased to exist in 1985, with no single interstate route designated to replace it. Within many cities, the route became a “business loop” for the interstate. Some sections became state roads, local roads, private drives, or were abandoned completely.

Today, it requires careful planning to follow Route 66 on the part I travelled along, with many ‘jogs’ across Interstate 40 required, and a mile-by-mile map sometimes necessary. Next I will go into the detail of the most interesting stops along Route 66 from Oklahoma City OK to Gallup NM, including:

1. Texola OK

2. U-Drop Inn and Tower station in Shamrock TX

3. Magnolia gas station in Shamrock TX

4. Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo TX

5. Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari NM

6. Main street in Tucumcari NM

7. Albuquerque NM

8. Gallup NM

… so stay tuned for Part 2 of this Route 66 section of my US Coast to Coast 2014 Photo Report!

The Full Photo Report continues below.

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