Here is a hugely detailed list of the best-selling cars in most major global car markets, going back to the dawn of the automotive age. Some are familiar and sell, even today – but many have long since been lost to the mists of time. We’ll start with the largest sellers and work our way down:
1. USA: Ford F-series, 1948-present – 30 million
The Ford F-series does nothing by halves. In addition to being the best-selling vehicle in the US for decades, it’s also the heaviest hitter on this list. Ford is justifiably proud of its pick-up range, which has a year-round production of one every 52sec. This line alone generates around $41 billion (that’s around Rs 2,81,239 crore) in revenue per year, for Ford.
2. Russia: Lada Riva, 1980-2015 – 15 million
The Lada Riva has a convoluted history from the 1966 Fiat 124 through the VAZ-2101 and on to the Lada Riva in 1980. There was no stopping the Lada at this point. It went on to make a sale of 15 million units in over 35 years. Its basic nature suited many Russian drivers looking for something cheap, easy to maintain, and capable of coping with the nation's extreme weather. It was produced by AvtoVAZ – now owned mostly by Renault-Nissan.
3. Japan: Toyota Corolla, 1966-present – 12.65 million
The Japanese can be notoriously fickle when it comes to cars. Many buyers are drawn to quirky cars – with the exception of the simple Toyota Corolla which has out-sold all others in its designers' homeland. The car's 53-year production heritage (stretching back to 1966) helps sales immensely, so many of its rivals for short-term sales never get a look in.
4. Brazil: Volkswagen Gol, 1980-present – 8 million
The Gol is locally produced in Brazil. It has evolved to become ideally suited to this market. Offered as three- and five-door hatches, you can also order one as a sedan – popular with South American buyers. Based on the previous-gen VW Polo, the current Gol is offered with 1.0- and 1.6-litre engine options. It was Brazil’s annual best-seller between 1987 and 2014.
5. Germany: Volkswagen Golf, 1974-present – 7 million
Come on, what did you expect? This is Germany and the Volkswagen Golf. No car encapsulates a national identity in quite the same way; so, it’s obvious the German nation would open its hearts and wallets to the Golf. Even so, the 7 million (and counting) sales in its homeland is still just a fraction of the 34 million Golfs sold worldwide, so far.
6. Czech Republic: Skoda Octavia, 1996-present – 6.4 million
The Czech people have elevated the Octavia to a very solid number one in the country’s overall sales rankings. 6.4 million units found happy homes since the model’s launch in 1996. In the intervening years, the Octavia has increased its sales and market share in its own backyard despite growing sales of immediate rivals and others in the blossoming Czech economy.
7. United Kingdom: Ford Fiesta, 1974-present – 4.5 million
Although British drivers have become used to the Fiesta topping the country’s sales charts in recent years, it used to be larger Blue Oval models that had that honour. Only in 2014 did the Fiesta steal the UK’s overall title of best-selling car from the Escort (1968-1998), which itself took the honour from the original Mini (1959-2000). Today, nearly all Fiestas sold in Europe are made in Cologne, Germany after being at least partially produced in Britain until 2002.
8. Canada: Ford F-series, 1948-present – 4.2 million
While there may be many distinguishing features between Canadians and their US neighbours, they both share a love of the Ford F-series. It’s been the best-selling vehicle in Canada for decades thanks to being ideally suited to the tough terrain that covers much of the country. It’s also cheaper than many sedans and available in a range of body styles and engine sizes.
9. Italy: Fiat Uno, 1983-1994 – 4 million
Fiat turned out more than six million Unos during the car’s production lifetime. Around two-thirds of these were destined for domestic consumption. The Uno was near-perfect as a fresh take on the theme of the 500 and 126 being affordable, compact transport. The one real surprise is that it managed this sales achievement in the relatively short time span of 11 years.
10. Hungary: Skoda Octavia, 1996-present – 35,000
It’s a measure of how small the new car market of Hungary is, that Skoda’s Octavia tops the country’s overall sales chart with 35,000 sales up until end-2017. It takes a big slice of the market with its affordable price and solid build that can cope with some less-than-perfectly surfaced roads.
11. Ukraine: ZAZ Zaporozhets, 1960-1994 – 3.4 million
It is fairly obvious why the Zaporozhets is Ukraine’s biggest selling car when you consider the various versions that make up this model's lineage. It kicked-off in 1960 with a city car powered by an air-cooled, rear-mounted engine. It’s this motor design that ties the various models together and explains the impressive production run.
12. Poland: Polski Fiat/FSO 126p, 1973-2000 – 3.3 million
The 126p is the former Fiat design that ducked behind the Iron Curtain to make another life for itself by finding its greatest favour in Poland. Its basic design and decent packaging made it ideal during the country’s Communist years. Although its popularity allowed production to last a decade after democracy took hold.
13. Australia: Ford Falcon, 1960-2016 – 3 million+
The legendary Ford Falcon built began by being built in Melbourne as an Australian counterpart of its American sibling. The key difference was right-hand drive. By 1970 when Ford US ceased production, the Australian model gained more local design input resulting in a car that buyers took to heart – particularly when fitted with a powerful V8s and entered domestic sedan racing. After seven generations, the Falcon line came to an end in 2016 due to rising production costs.
14. France: Renault Clio, 1990-present – 3 million
Renault has turned out more than 14 million Clios during the small hatchback's lifespan of 18 years (and counting) and almost a quarter of those have been for domestic consumption. While the French may be biased towards their home-grown vehicles, there’s no denying that the Clio is every bit as good a choice today as it was in 1990, when it first launched.
15. China: Volkswagen Santana, 1982-present – 3 million
The Volkswagen Santana holds the number one sales spot in China – partly due to its long production life there. The other key to its success is local production and it’s been assembled in China since it’s launch in 1982 by the company we now know as SAIC. Ever-popular as a taxi, you can also buy the latest Jetta-based model in sedan or Gran Santana hatch body styles.
16. Mexico: Volkswagen Beetle, 1948-2003 – 1.7 million
1954: The first officially imported Beetle to Mexico touched tarmac; and the car went on to enjoy massive popularity on account of it being easy to maintain. The Mexican people loved it so much that VW decided to build the Beetle in Puebla, itself, from 1967. Production only ended in 2003 when declining sales and tighter emissions controls made it uneconomic to carry on with.
17. Malaysia: Perodua Myvi, 2005-present – 1.5 million
The Perodua Myvi may have failed to garner much attention in the wider world, but in its home market of Malaysia this little car is big news. A year after it was introduced in 2005, it topped the sales charts and stayed there for eight years on the trot – and it’s never been far from the top spot in subsequent years.
18. South Africa: Toyota Corolla, 1966-present – 1.1 million
Toyota’s Hilux often tops the yearly sales charts in South Africa, but the Corolla is the journeyman machine that’s been there, done it and got the overall number one slot as a result. Most are sold in plain white to deal with the hot sun, while the Corolla’s low running costs and reliability are what endears it to so many South African drivers.
The car is produced in Durban, along with the Hilux and certain other Toyotas.
19. Spain: SEAT Ibiza, 1984-present – 1.1 million
The Ibiza is built in Spain by a Spanish company and loved by the country’s car buyers more than any other model. It started life from the independent SEAT company; but Volkswagen took control in 1990 Volkswagen – which seems a little roundabout, as the first Ibiza was a reworked design of a possible Golf replacement rejected by the Germans. Since then, the Ibiza has improved, consistently.
20. Sweden: Volvo 200-series, 1974-1993 – 1 million
The 200 cemented Volvo’s reputation for safety and solidity, securing almost three million units in global sales for this model. A third of these found homes in Sweden itself, during a 19-year life. The 200 now has a cult following amongst a new generation of Swedish drivers who love its sharp-edged style.
21. Romania: Dacia 1300, 1969-2004 – 1 million
If the Dacia 1300 looks familiar, it’s because this Romanian idol began life as the Renault 12. Unlike some other Soviet-era Western European cast-off cars, the Dacia was launched in France in 1969 at the same time as the La Regie. The difference is that the La Regie ceased production in 1980 while Dacia carried on until 2004 – or 2006, if you wanted the pick-up version. Renault acquired Dacia in 1999.
22. Austria: Volkswagen Golf, 1974-present – 9,00,000
Given its proximity to and close ties with Germany, it’s no surprise to find the Volkswagen Golf to be the long-standing favourite of Austrian car buyers. Since 1974, more than 9,00,000 have been sold and the hatch still reigns supreme in the sales charts. This love of the Golf also manifests itself in the world’s largest gathering for the model in Wörthersee, Carinthia, every year where VW takes the chance to show-off several concepts to Golf fans.
23. Belgium: Volkswagen Golf, 1974-present – 5,72,000
The Belgians have a longstanding association with the Volkswagen Golf that runs deeper than merely buying more of them than any other model. From 1980, VW built the Golf Mk1 at the Vorst plant, which was already turning out the Passat. Successive generations of Golf were made there, up to the Mk5.
24. Turkey: Renault Symbol, 1999-present – 3,30,000
The Symbol started life as a reworked version of the second-gen Renault Clio albeit with a boot, to suit local tastes. Such was its popularity in Turkey that when the third generation arrived in 2012, Renault unveiled the car at the Istanbul Motor Show, that year. It’s now the country’s historically best-selling car and is offered with 1.2-litre petrol or 1.5-litre turbo-diesel engines.
25. Qatar: Toyota Land Cruiser, 1951-present – 2,20,000
Toyota rules the sales (and sands) in Qatar. The lead can change between its various models from year to year, but it’s the Land Cruiser that comes out on top, here. Its longevity seals the deal. It was in the early days of the oil boom when the Land Cruiser was a far more utilitarian vehicle – and it still prospers as a luxury 4x4, capable of dealing with city and desert with equal aplomb.
26. Ireland: Ford Focus, 1998-present – 1,50,000
The Ford Fiesta might hold sway just over the border in the UK, but the Irish have a love of the larger Focus, making it the country’s biggest seller. Since launch in 1998, the Focus has sold steadily here and is helped by engines that lessen the blow of vehicle taxes – which can be swingeing.
27. Kuwait: Toyota Prado, 1990-present – 1,35,000
When you have a country defined by huge swathes of desert and petrol that’s cheaper than shoe leather, the inevitable winner of the sales battle is the Toyota Prado. Mixing ample comfort with superb off-road ability (as well the reliability not to leave you stranded in the desert) the Prado features regularly in the top five new car sales lists, year after year, to see off lesser rivals.
28. Portugal: Renault Clio, 1990-present – 1,30,000
Spain may be closer, but it’s France that provides Portugal with its favourite motoring son – the Renault Clio. A good deal of its sales are driven by the large car hire market, thanks to Portugal’s popularity as a holiday destination; but the locals love it, too. You can still see plenty of earlier models being used daily, thanks to the temperate climate that staves-off rust.
29. Finland: Skoda Octavia, 1996-present – 1,05,000
Finland may be well-known for its growing love of electric cars and their considerable share of new car sales, but it’s the Skoda Octavia that takes the top step of the podium, here. It continues to sell steadily to canny Finnish buyers. Its consistency over more than two decades is what secured its place in this list.