These F-words were brought to you by Ford. Yesterday, Ford’s 350 millionth vehicle rolled off the lines. It was a Ford Focus, and an occasion to celebrate an even more auspicious record: The Ford Focus “is the world’s best-selling car for the first half of 2012,” says a Ford press release. Media from Associated Press to Autoblog obediently announced the record. The record went down in a hail of protests.
The Wall Street Journal deemed it below its ethics to parrot a press release and asked questions. Answers in hand, they write:
“The company announced on Friday that through seven months of 2012, the car had sold 522,000 units around the world, making it the best-selling single nameplate vehicle, ahead of the Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Golf. Outselling the Corolla, which similarly is a model sold around the world, would be a great accomplishment for Ford.
But according to Toyota, the Focus actually hasn’t outsold the Corolla. Through that same seven-month period, it said it has sold 722,000 vehicles. Ford, when notified about the difference, said they made a mistake and issued a new press release, saying they actually sold 489,616 units in a six month period – not seven months – and the Toyota Corolla had sold 462,187 units. They also, in the new release, attributed those numbers to IHS Automotive, an independent auto research and forecasting firm that tracks data like global sales.”
That should settle it, no? No, says the WSJ.
Toyota says it sold 603,840 in that same six-month period. Which would give the Corolla a slight lead of 114,224 units over the Focus. IHS and Ford overlooked what is familiar to TTAC readers: The Corolla goes by different names in different countries, where it is known as the Matrix, Corolla Axio, Corilla Fielder, Corolla Rumion, and we possibly missed some.
Even if you only count global sales of the Corolla sedan and Auris hatchback, the two body styles available on the globally-sold Focus, that would give 524,000 units to the Corolla, which would still be ahead of the Focus, says Toyota.
Ford should know better than to rely on IHS Automotive. Its predecessor, IHS Global Insight, once received the nickname “Global Oversight” in the business for consistently erroneous numbers. In November 2009, IHS Global Oversight infamously crowned Volkswagen as the World’s largest automaker. A month later, Volkswagen ended the year correctly in place 3.
IHS concedes that its worldview is a bit blurred, as its numbers cover only 90% of the world and “the 10 percent that we miss out on may be in countries where Toyota is strong,” Christopher Hopson of IHS told the Journal.
In the end, muses a gracious Wall Street Journal, “it’s fair to say both companies are selling a lot of cars, even if no one can agree on how many.”
Bloomberg, after first buying into Ford’s 489,616 Focus vs. 462,187 Corollas story, has second thoughts. In a new story, the wire correctly reports that Ford and Toyota “are each saying they produce the best-selling car in the world in the first half. Their definitions are the key.”
PS: Flagwavers, take note: The 350 millionth Ford and allegedly best-selling Focus rolled off the assembly lines in Thailand, at Ford’s Rayong plant.