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Roofless in Seattle: Local car tastes are quirky

Seattle may be rainy and cool, but its drivers are the most likely to get moon roofs and air-conditioned seats in their cars.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Seattle may be rainy and cool, but its drivers are the most likely to get moon roofs and air-conditioned seats in their cars.

That's one of several unexpected trends in some Ford data released Friday about customer preferences in various regions. Ford looks at the colors and features that buyers favor and uses the data to ensure dealers have the right mix of cars to match local tastes.

In addition to moon roofs and cooled seats, Seattle has the highest percentage of buyers who opt for rearview cameras and blind-spot warning systems. Seattle is also second to San Francisco in the popularity of navigation systems.

Seattle-area buyers are well-heeled, well-educated and tech savvy, said Mark Scarff, general manager of Bowen Scarff Ford Lincoln Mercury in Kent, Wash. They drive in the mountains and on the coast — that explains the moon roofs and navigation systems — and they like to equip their vehicles with the latest technology. Ford's Sync entertainment system, for example, was designed at nearby Microsoft.

"We're counting on that kind of customer," Scarff said. On rare occasions, Scarff said, he has to special-order bare-bones models for his customers.

These are more than just factoids for automakers, who are obsessive collectors of data. Customers who don't find the exact car they want on a lot might go to another dealership, so it's critical to supply the right mix.

Many of Ford's results aren't surprising. Hybrid cars are most popular in eco-friendly San Francisco. Drivers in pickup territory — Dallas and Houston — are most likely to opt for towing features, like a hitch and wiring for trailer lights. Buyers in Cincinnati — home of the Cincinnati Reds — like red cars; motorists in sunny Phoenix like orange.

But there are plenty of quirks. Drivers in San Francisco, Atlanta and Charlotte — not those in snowier climates — are the most likely to get heated seats. Maybe they're more sensitive to cold. Drivers in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas are most likely to opt for rear-seat DVD systems. Those are motorists who face long drives outside their sprawling cities for their weekend getaways.

As for colors, people in the nation's capital are most likely to get blue cars, while flashier folks in Miami like gold. Green cars don't seem to be popular outside of the East Coast. The top markets for them are Boston — home of the Celtics — followed by Philadelphia.

The Detroit market — Ford's home base — wasn't included in the sampling on features because the number of cars and trucks leased to employees would skew the results.