By on March 10, 2011

After telling you all about the best selling cars in Argentina and Libya, I will proudly continue to surprise you, and come back to South America to talk to you about Brazil. Because something pretty exceptional happened last month in Brazil. No wait. A once in a decade event. No less.

If you can’t wait for the next update and want to know all about car sales in 154 countries around the planet simply go here, it’s my blog and it’s awesome. Yes it is.

Alright. We’re lucky, in Brazil, the Fenabrave dealer organization keeps us up to date about the best selling cars in the country. Not once but twice a month. Nice. But let’s get straight to it: in February 2011, the Fiat novo Uno was the best selling car in Brazil with 21,470 units sold, kicking the Volkswagen Gol into second place with 20,989 sales.

“Is that it?” I hear you say. Well well well. Let’s dive into a bit of background to give you some perspective. As readers of Marcelo’s great pieces know, the Volkswagen Gol has been the best selling car in Brazil every year since 1987. Yep, that’s 24 years in a row. It’s up there with the Ford F-Series in the USA, or the Volkswagen Golf in Germany in terms of longevity.

Fiat has tried before to dislodge the Gol in Brazil. It launched and started production of the Fiat Palio there in 1996, an attempt at a world car but really, to kick the Gol’s arse in Brazil. Didn’t do it. Actually, it did, but a tiny tiny little bit. From the time I have been following Brazilian car sales (January 2000), the Fiat Palio only managed to pass the Gol in the monthly ranking THREE TIMES! In September 2006, October 2006 and August 2007. That’s it. That’s 3 months to the Palio, and 118 months to the Gol. So Gol 118, Palio 3.

Until last month.

With the Palio, the Fiat novo Uno is only the second model since 1996 to have managed to outsell the Volkswagen Gol in any given month. Suddenly it’s a little more impressive, não é?

Month Fiat Uno units Uno % VW Gol units Gol %
May-10 14,164 6.0% 24,236 10.3%
Jun-10 19,130 7.7% 22,179 9.0%
Jul-10 23,163 8.1% 25,424 8.9%
Aug-10 24,094 8.1% 25,855 8.7%
Sep-10 23,880 8.2% 25,338 8.7%
Oct-10 22,226 7.7% 25,860 9.0%
Nov-10 24,282 7.8% 29,697 9.5%
Dec-10 28,692 7.9% 29,809 8.3%
Jan-11 16,913 7.4% 23,059 10.0%
Feb-11 21,470 8.3% 20,989 8.1%

Okay now you’re saying: that’s just one month. Granted. But since the launch of the novo Uno in June 2010, Volkswagen had been promoting the hell out of the Gol to ensure it kept its first spot (see comparison table). Now looks like Volkswagen is running out of new tricks. Plus the 3-door version of the novo Uno has just launched last month and will add significant volume in the near future. Plus Fiat is building a new plant right there in Brazil to keep up with the demand. Plus Fiat will be launching this August a completely remodeled version of the Palio for the first time since its original launch. And the Palio competes even more squarely with the Gol.

Suddenly, 2011 doesn’t look so good for the Gol.

Again, this might just be a bad dream and come back to normal during the rest of the year, and I will have cried wolf for nothing, but it is still a once in a decade event…

For those of you familiar with the Uno nameplate in Europe (best seller in Italy from 1983 to 1994), the novo Uno has nothing to do with it. Until June 2010, Fiat do Brazil had actually continued to manufacture a restyled version of the original European Uno, sometimes called Mille, with significant success, the model ranking frequently on the podium.

In June 2010, Fiat launched the novo Uno, based on the European Fiat Panda (talk about confusing…). The novo Uno is not sold in Europe, only in South America. It is not doing so well in Argentina where it is priced too high, but really it looks like Fiat designed it exclusively for Brazil, and they were right to do so.

A couple more interesting facts about the sales figures of the novo Uno in Brazil:

21,470 units give it a 8.3 percent market share. That’s way above the market share achieved by the best selling Fiat in Italy itself this month! The Fiat Punto achieved 6.7 percent of the Italian market in February 2011, and its sales are made of 3 distinct models: the Punto Classic, the Punto Evo and the Grande Punto… Other popular Fiats, the Panda (5.8 percent) and the 500 (3.8 percent) were not even close.

In terms of volume, the novo Uno has sold in Brazil twice the amount of Puntos in Italy (10,762)…

Thought you should know.

Now if you are a real nerd and want to see the Top 100 best selling models in Brazil or the Top 50 best selling models in Italy last month simply click on the name of the country in this very sentence.

Matt Gasnier, based in Sydney, Australia, runs a blog named Best Selling Cars, dedicated to counting cars all over the world.

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13 Comments on “Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Is It The End Of An Era in Brazil?...”

  • avatar

    Excellent analyses and excellent points Matt. I’d been working on some similar article, but you beat me to it.

    Now, some say that the reaso the Uno beat the VW is that part of the 6 billion euaros Fiat is pouring nto Brazil until 2012 has already been used to increase production at the factory in Brazil (betim) and in Argentina. All Sienas are now made inArgentina so this opened up space at the Brazilian factory. Plus, there was a paralysis of 2 weeks between Dec and Jan so that the line could be maintained and optimized. So, the result is that Fiat cannow produce the Uno in greater numbers. That’s the direct threar to the Gol.

    Come May though, when the new Palio comes off the product pipeline, it may just split sales with Uno. Up until New Uno was launched Palio would sells right around 18 to 20 thousand a month. Now it’s down to 10 to 7 thousand a month. Fiat has a difficlut balancng act to do. If price is too similar to Uno, many will make sacrifice for Palio. If more expensive but too close to Punto, the Punto will be dead.

    Interesting times ahead

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks Marcelo! Glad you like the analysis, it was fun to write. Very interesting story on the Siena production moved to Argentina. Makes sense to optimise the Brazilian plant for the Uno! By the way given the Gol was launched in 1980 in Brazil but not leader until 1987 do you know which model lead sales then?

    • 0 avatar

      Matt, Siena production did in fact start in Argentina back in 1997. The plan was more or less like this: Palio in Brazil, Siena in Argentina.
      For some reason the Cordoba plant closed and the production was moved to Brazil. That plant neighbors told me that all the equipment was in place some years ago.
      It doesn’t surprise me that they moved the model again to Cordoba for freeing some capacity in Brazil.

    • 0 avatar

      There were a couple of years in there that the Monza was the sales leader (a.k.a. Opel Ascona). 84 or 85 and thereabouts. If I remember correctly, during those years, many different cars were leaders at some point or another. In my Brief History of the Brazilian Car I talked about the 80s being Brazil malaise era. So, in the beginning of decade, Beetle was still probably leader, Escort was probably leader, Chevy Chevette (Opel Kadett – 1st generation). Fact wad in that period, only middle class people bought cars as credit was almost non-existant and the rise of the Gol marked an era in which small cars would be leaders and even expel larger cars fro m top 10. It’s an interesting topic for research.

      The Córdoba factory is also receiving investments. It will be able to produce 350K cars by 2014. So will Pernambuco. If all goes according to plan, in Betim they’ll be producing 950k.

      As to Siena, Stingray answered below. While Brazil has always been the land of hatches, Argentina, to a degree, always rejected hatches and went for sedans (even if small). If in Brazil the old Uno outlived and lives on, the Uno-sedan, the Premio, died 15 years ago. In Argentina it was the opposite, the Duna (as Premio was called there) outlived the Uno by at least 6 or 7 years. However, in recent years Argentina has been buying more and more hatches, while in Brazil the compact sedan segment is currently a very hot one and one of the fastest growing in a market that is growing ia all segments (well except for minivans and SWs).

      Now Stingray, why did Brazil stop producing in Argentina? Well in 1997 (or there abouts), Argentina was in the midst of its worst ever crisis. As Matt reported Argentina car crazy now, back then Argentinians fearful for their future postponed buying cars. So that year the market in Argentina was for a grand total of only 50 000 cars. Fiat was selling just 5 000 cars. As an executive of Fiat Brazil told me, “why keep producing in Argentina if I’m going to sell there all year all that we sell in your home state in a month?”. So the factory was shut down until in 2005 or 06 they atarted building engines and transmissions there, and at least since 2007 most Sienas are from Argentina as building them there frees up space in the Betim factory for more cars

    • 0 avatar

      Also Matt in 93 or 94, the Fiat Tipo was also market leader of couple of times in that year. In fact, it was the first imported car since the market closed in th 50s to be market leader

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks very much Marcelo this is great info! That will help me a lot when I start adding Historical Data on Brazil in my blog…Do you have access to any official data at all for the 1980s and 1990s?

    • 0 avatar

      Hi Matt,

      Will have some free time this weekend. Will try to find some data to satisfy our curiosity.

  • avatar

    VW is going to have The Run for the money this year over there.

  • avatar

    I realize the cars in Brazil must be small and efficient, and that’s probably the reason for the boxy shape that thumbs its nose at wind tunnels, but I envy the ability to see out the back window.
    The article is incomplete without some speculation as to what Herr Piech intends to do about this once in a decade event. Yielding Brazil to the Italians is surely not part of his plan for world domination. Are there any hints about what VW might have up its sleeve?

    • 0 avatar


      What VW is planning is a new small car. Probably to be called Lupo. Smaller than Gol, with a three cylinder engine. However, Fiat will meet this head on. Right now they’re working on a smaller car than the Uno, too. They’re calling it the “City”. It will be a 2 cylinder, multiair technology engine, 0.8 cc. Doesn’t sound impressive, but I was told said engine produces 80hp. Not so bad as currently the 1.0, 4 cylinder engines that form the base of the Brazilian market offers just 70hp.

      So, Vw is stumped.

      BTW, got that info frm horse’s mouth itself.

  • avatar


    As to names, Fiat decided to go with “Novo” Uno as the old Uno was already officially called Mille (thugh people continue to refer to it as Uno). Fiat tried to register the new car as Panda, but in the process found that the name Panda was already registered by another compaqny in Brazil (couldn’t discover which). So, to avoid shelling out cash to “re-buy” its name, Fiat just decided to go with Uno.

    I think this is a tendency we’ll see more and more. Like with the giant logos they’ve been putting on the cars’ hoods, Western manufacturers are aping the Japanese in keeping names for the long run (to be fair VW always did this). Fiat, like Renault, Peugeot, Ford or GM was in the habit of creating a new name for a car. Sometimes even for just a facelifted car! So now I guess the tendency is to keep the old nameplate even if the changes warrant a new name. Like New Uno’s case. It’s a completely new car. Could have used a new name. Since it was impossible to go with Panda, they decided to use the old name that BTW has huge cachet in Brazil. Probably akin to what Fiat did in Europe callin g the new Bravo, well Bravo, after the old one was substituted by Stilo.

  • avatar

    Hey Marcelo that’s great info thank you! For some reason I only got to read this today…
    Now would Geely have registered the Panda name in Brazil before Fiat thought of it? They are using it in China for this model. Separately Fiat has prevented Geely from using the Panda name in Australia when they launch the model here, even though the Fiat Panda is not sold in Australia… See the detail here
    It would be really interesting to try and find this out?
    Also as a bit of an update, as at mid-March the Fiat Novo Uno is AGAIN the best selling car in Brazil… This is getting serious!
    The Top 75 in Brazil at mid-March is here.

  • avatar

    Excellent analysis!

    On a year by year basis, the VW Beetle was the bestselling car in Brazil beginning in immemorial times (1960s, probably) and up to 1982. In 1983 the Chevrolet Chevette (Opel Kadett C, fresh from a redesign) took the lead. In 1984 the Chevrolet Monza (Opel Ascona) became the bestseller, remaining so until 1986. In 1987 the Gol took over and has been the top seller ever since.

    On a month by month basis, the old Uno, and the Palio after its introduction in 1996, occasionally beat the Gol. The Tipo, while it was still imported (it was later built here, but for a short time only), managed to be the bestselling car in exactly one month, shortly before a hike in import taxes, IIRC. I believe this was January 1996.

    Oh, and be careful with the Fenabrave data. They lump the new Uno and the old Uno together as one model. They also lump in the old Gol (base model, still built on the 1980 platform, though it was heavily revised in 1994) and the new Gol (a completely different car, on the mid-2000s Polo platform) together. For what it’s worth, they also lump the Chevrolet Corsa Sedan and the Chevrolet Classic (née… Chevrolet Corsa Sedan) together. Apparently, their criterion is the car’s name, not the differences between one car and the other.

    This is partly the manufacturers’ fault. The small-hatchback market in Brazil is a mess. Fiat has four different cars in that segment (old Uno, new Uno, Palio, Punto); so does Volkswagen (old Gol, new Gol, Fox, Polo); and Chevrolet has three (Celta, Corsa, Agile). Chevrolet even has three different small sedans (Classic, Prisma, Corsa Sedan).

    (Punto = the European Grande Punto; Celta = redesigned Opel Corsa B; Corsa = Opel Corsa C; Agile = another redesigned Opel Corsa B; Classic = sedan version of the Opel Corsa B; Prisma; redesigned sedan version of the Opel Corsa B, also the sedan version of the Celta; Corsa Sedan = sedan version of the Opel Corsa C.)

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