From Jay Leno’s Garage to Yours

By Charles Krome

Like a number of other auto observers, I’m jumping on a recent survey from that bastion of journalistic integrity known as The Hollywood Reporter, which in this case commissioned an in-depth look at the audience demographics for the country’s top four late-night talk shows—including the preferred auto brand for each show’s audience. And what makes this particular factoid especially interesting for us is that the hosts of three of the four shows in question have some serious gearhead cred.

Take a certain Jay Leno, who in addition to handling “The Tonight Show” duties also happens to have one of the most amazing car collections on the planet. Leno’s menagerie has now grown to nearly 100 cars, and we’re talking about some serious metal here. There’s everything from a 1906 Stanley Steamer to a 2006 GM EcoJet. Haven’t heard of the latter? The 650-hp supercar, powered by a Honeywell LT-101 turbine engine running on bio-diesel, was something he thought up during a chat with GM design chief Ed Welburn back in the day, and GM was kind enough to put one together for him.

According to the poll from The Hollywood Reporter, however, his audience of wealthy, religious, country-music-loving Fox News watchers prefers to drive “a Chevy or a Pontiac.”

David Letterman, long-time host of The Late Show, comes to the automotive scene more from the competition side of things, as part owner of Rahal Letterman Racing with former Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal. The team has been a major player in open-wheel racing in the U.S., both fielding the 2004 Indy 500 winner, Buddy Rice, and supporting Danica Patrick at the beginning of her career. More recently, the Rahal Letterman team has been finding success with the BMW M3 in the American Le Mans Series. Thanks to a strong finish in October’s Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, Rahal Letterman took home the the manufacturer and team titles in the ALMS GT class this year.

But the Democratic-leaning, malt-beverage-drinking CNN watchers who tend to tune into Letterman also tend to drive a Toyota.

Conan O’Brien’s claim to motoring fame—beyond dressing up a Bugatti Veyron as a mouse during the end of his run on The Tonight Show—is his Jewel Green 1992 Ford Taurus SHO, which also made an appearance on the program. A classic sleeper, the ’92 SHO looked not unlike a standard Taurus of the time but packed a 3.0-liter Yamaha V6 that made 220 horses. That’s 145 fewer than you get with today’s SHO, but today’s SHO also weighs in at about 1,000 lbs. more than the 1992 model. Seriously. And the bottom line in 1992 was a Ford sport sedan that ran from 0-60 in the mid-7-second range, notably faster than the similarly sized Germans of the era.

In an odd bit of synchronicity, O’Brien’s followers, a tech-savvy and atheistic bunch according to the survey, usually fall into the Volkswagen camp.

Finally, there’s Jon Stewart, and I can only guess he’s one of those Ken Block/Travis Pastrana types … oh, wait a minute … you mean the Rally to Restore Sanity wasn’t sanctioned by WRC?

Well, regardless, his audience is weighted toward Catholic married folks who like to listen to classical music while driving their GMC trucks.

Interested in further details about your favorite late-night hosts? Check out the full survey report at this link.

Author: Charles Krome

Charles Krome is a long-time automotive journalist who spent more than 10 years on the inside at General Motors and Ford, and also has corporate communications experience with Audi, Porsche and BASF Automotive Refinish. As a big motorsports fan growing up in the Detroit area, Krome was lucky enough to be able to attend numerous NASCAR, Indy car, F1 and SCCA events while still in his formative years. This, combined with a childhood that included significant (passenger) seat time in cars from Lotus and Jensen Healey, made him a car guy at an earlier age. Today, he lives in metro Detroit with his car wife, raising car kids.

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1 Comment

  1. well, that explains why I don’t watch any of them 😉

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