America's 20 Most Ticketed Cars: Are You Driving One of Them?
I have to admit that I'm no stranger to a getting a speeding ticket. A self-proclaimed Speed Racer, I've racked up 16 speeding citations in 18 years (although I've beaten practically all of them in court). But I'm not alone.
According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an average of 112,000 people receive a speeding citation on a daily basis, which works out to about 41 million people getting caught for speeding by law enforcement each year, or 1 in 5 drivers. In total, with speeding citations averaging $152 (including court fees), speeding tickets generate about $6.2 billion in revenue each year. Now, keep in mind, this is just the amount collected for speeding and doesn't include tickets for a laundry list of other driving infractions.
Driving citations can also drastically impact a driver's car insurance rate. Of course, factors like age, marital status, the amount of driving one does, the type of car driven, and location within the country all weigh into auto insurance pricing, but getting a moving citation doesn't help a driver's cause.
Are you driving one of America's most ticketed cars?
With that in mind, this past week Insurance.com released its annual list of the most ticketed cars in America. Based on Insurance.com's survey of more than 557,000 drivers across 526 car models, the average rate at which drivers received a citation was 19.9% over the prior three years. However, for America's 20 most ticketed cars, the rate at which drivers received a citation over that time period jumps to at least 27%.
Let's have a look at Insurance.com's 20 most ticketed cars to see not only what trends may emerge from the data, but what this might ultimately mean for the companies making these vehicles.
% of Cars Ticketed
1. Subaru WRX
2. Pontiac GTO
3. Scion FR-S
4. Toyota Supra
5. Subaru Tribeca
6. Volkswagen Rabbit
7. Mercury Topaz
8. Scion tC
9. Toyota FJ Cruiser
11. Hyundai Veloster
12. Volkswagen GTI
13. Suzuki Reno
14. Scion xA
15. Pontiac G8
16. MINI Cooper S Countryman
17. Mitsubishi 3000 GT
18. Saturn Aura
19. Infiniti QX56/QX80
20. Toyota Prius C
Clear trends emerge
Surprised you didn't see more exotic sports cars at the top of the list? That's because many of those luxury speed-demons are out of the price range of the average American, and they also tend to be driven by older and usually safer drivers.
Once you actually get past the hilarity of the Mercury Topaz ranking seventh (the Topaz hasn't been in production for 20 years), a fairly consistent trend emerges among the majority of these vehicles. That trend is that these vehicles are geared toward a younger demographic, the majority are reasonably priced, and many don't have a lot of horsepower -- proving they don't have to in order to rank as one of America's most ticketed vehicles.
As Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, proclaimed in an interview with MarketWatch, "These cars all appeal to a younger demographic and many of them skew heavily male. Of course, young male drivers typically take the most risks and garner the most tickets, or are involved in the most accidents." As MarketWatch goes on to point out, the risks of younger drivers are often calculated into their insurance costs: When the average teenage male is added to a household auto insurance policy, it causes the rate to rise by a whopping 92%!
A mixed bag for automakers
Out of the 20 most ticketed vehicles, you could say Toyota is the runaway automaker of the group. Toyota, which also owns Scion, occupies six of the top 20 spots. Overall, the Scion brand was the most ticketed based on Insurance.com's survey results. Additionally, Volkswagen and Subaru found themselves near the top of the list with a couple of models.
Ultimately, I believe these survey results demonstrate a mixture of promise and peril for these three automakers in particular.
On one hand, insurance companies may, as a whole, look at this collective data and determine that certain vehicles are more prone to promote poor driving habits. If insurers begin to single out specific brands like Scion, or charge premiums for Subaru, Volkswagen, Scion, or Toyota owners because their cars are among the most ticketed in America, it could potentially reduce sales of those cars. For newly licensed teens, insurance costs can be extremely high, so any additional costs could further pressure household budgets and possibly move families away from these automakers.
Though, as Des Toups, managing editor of Insurance.com, also noted, insurance companies tend to focus more on accidents rather than tickets when setting insurance rates. A trend of accidents by one model could send rates higher across the board, while tickets are usually a single-driver issue.
However, parents of younger drivers may perceive these 20 vehicles to be higher-risk given their citation history and may opt to avoid them altogether, which could potentially be bad news for these automakers.
Nonetheless, I believe there's actually some good to be seen within this data. If the assumption is true that younger drivers are the primary reason these vehicles are the most ticketed in America, then it could be a strong sign that Toyota, Subaru, and Volkswagen are doing a good job of reaching young adults.
Although young adults and their families usually don't spend a lot when purchasing their first cars, resulting in low margins for automakers, young adults are also quite impressionable, and courting this age group could allow these automakers to forge an emotional connection that could keep them loyal to the brand over the long term. This long-term loyalty is what can translate into big bucks for automakers.
Toyota's Scion, for instance, is a brand aimed at introducing younger drivers to a sportier and less expensive Toyota offshoot. The idea is that as these drivers mature and establish themselves financially, they'll be enticed to step up to a more luxurious model within the higher-margin Toyota lineup.
Since 2006, Scion's sales have fallen from a peak of 173,034 vehicles to just 68,321 last year, a 7% drop from 2012, according to Kelley Blue Book. Some may construe that as Scion's designs growing stale, but another possibility is that those same buyers from five to 10 years ago are now stepping up to Toyota.
The concern for Toyota, of course, is if Scion's designs stop attracting younger drivers. While Scion may have possibly helped push one generation forward into higher-margin Toyotas, the chance for creating this lifelong customer relationship could be lost if the younger crowd isn't happy with Scion's designs. While we don't exactly have the answer yet as to whether or not this Scion-Toyota relationship is diminishing, investors should keep an eye on this, as it could be extremely important for Toyota in the long run in terms of attracting younger drivers.
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The article America's 20 Most Ticketed Cars: Are You Driving One of Them? originally appeared on Fool.com.Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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