One might imagine the scene of California’s richest citizens cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway would be filled with sporty convertible Mercedes or zippy BMWs. But true to California’s reputation for a pioneering spirit, the state’s wealthiest ZIP codes are home to more Toyota Prius hybrid models than luxury wheels. recently collected data from 2011 tax returns looking at the wealthiest ZIP codes in the country, and then looked at the auto registrations for the top 10 to understand what kind of cars the richest Americans are driving.


"For affluent buyers who live in places where environmental concerns reign supreme, the Toyota Prius is the ultimate status symbol in eco-luxury," said Kristen Andersson, an analyst at


Manhattan’s 10724 ZIP code, the richest neighborhood in the country with an average annual income of $5.7 million, favors the more-predictable Mercedes-Benz E-Class followed by the BMW X-5 SUV. No Toyotas in their top five. But when it comes to California's top cities, it’s hybrid or bust.


Drivers in the fifth richest city on the list, Century City in southern California (with an average annual income of $751,000) chose the Prius, followed by the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and C-Class sedans. The Volkswagen Jetta was the fifth favorite car in the community, just behind the BMW 328.


The Prius was also the car of choice in Ross, Calif., where the average annual income was $497,000. Ranked 10th on the most-wealthy list, inhabitants in this northern California enclave chose the Prius over the runners-up, luxury vehicles from the Mercedes-Benz E- Class and the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class.


Although denizens of Atherton, Calif., with an annual average income is $768,000, opted for the Mercedes-Benz E-Class as their top car, they showed their green spirit by choosing the Prius as their next most-purchased car.


Since the beginning of 2012, Prius sales have almost jumped to double their numbers since the same period last year. Will sales continue to rise? Consumer Reports’ recent panning of the 2012 Prius C in “Five Popular Cars to Avoid” may be bad news for Toyota, but as long as the hybrid remains a symbol of a driver’s commitment to the environment, especially among the nation’s wealthiest, the future of the Prius should be secure.


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