More than just a few surprises: An examination of the best-selling cars of all time

Posted on September 14, 2012 by PaulDavenport


Today, the tastes of consumers have changed markedly from that of the average driver from previous generations. Even over the course of the past year, sales trends have shown that the kinds of cars that are a hot-ticket items one season may fall off the radar in a matter of months.


Though current sales figures are largely dictated by the prices at the pump, some nameplates have been popular for decades no matter how much gas costs or what fads are in at the moment.

When considering the best-selling cars of all time, there are some brands that seem like shoe-ins near the top of the list. However, many American car enthusiasts are likely to encounter a few surprises if they actually look closely at the list.

For instance, it is common knowledge that the Ford F-Series is clearly one of the biggest winners in sales. Anyone who owns a television or a radio has probably heard Ford's ad campaigns, with the main hook referring to the truck's sales dominance for the past three decades.

However, the F-Series isn't the number one bestseller of all time. In fact, the runner-up in sales stateside for the better part of the past half century, the Chevy Silverado, doesn't even crack the top 10 when it comes to all-time sales. The ultimate winner is actually the Toyota Corolla, which has been on sale internationally since 1966, and has outsold the number two F-Series by 2 million units, despite the truck being on the market more than 20 years longer than the compact Corolla.

The only other domestic cars in the top 10 include two Fords, the Escort and the Model T, and the Chevy Impala.

In fact, one name brand dominates international sales market, despite being a somewhat niche marque stateside. Volkswagen ties Ford for the number of models in the top 10 by having a large international presence. The Golf, Beetle and Passat combined account for 66.5 million units. This pales in comparison to Ford's top three, which have amassed an impressive 71 million sales, but is surprising giving the fact that stateside, Volkswagens are almost never bestsellers.

Other American cars near the top of the list include an array of recently defunct models. The Oldsmobile Cutlass comes in at number 13, amassing roughly 12 million sales in its almost 40 years on the market. As well, number 28 on the list belongs to the Chevrolet Cavalier, which sold an impressive 6.9 million units in its 23 years in the market, never leaving the top 10 in domestic sales throughout its entire lifespan.

The Chrysler Voyager makes a surprise entry near the top at number 14, having sold 11.7 million models since it shook up the market in 1982. As the first minivan, most of those units were moved during the '80s and '90s, before the birth of the crossover SUV which has eaten up the sales of traditional vans and truck-based people movers alike.

At 32 is the Ford Explorer, which was arguably the definitive vehicle of the late '90s and early aughts. Now-a-days, more drivers are flocking to mid-range crossovers than truck based SUVs, prompting Ford to scrap the classic Explorer platform.

What top-selling models on the list surprise you most?