Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Iceland Forced To Downgrade

Matt Gasnier
by Matt Gasnier

Over the past few weeks, we flew over Romania, South Africa, Zimbabwe and New Caledonia. And what could be the complete opposite of a paradisiac island with white sandy beaches currently right in the middle of Summer? Try one with only a couple of hours of daylight, right in the middle of a traditionally very intense Winter: Iceland.

For those of you dear readers for which geography was not the forte at school (yes you in the back with the red shirt, I’m talking to you), Iceland is a lovely island up north of the Atlantic Ocean roughly midway between Greenland and England. Just don’t visit it in winter because 1) everything is closed, and 2) blink and you missed daylight. Iceland was under the spotlight so to speak last year when the Eyjafjallajokull volcano (say that word very very quickly so we can have a laugh) erupted, causing widespread air travel disruption.

If very very very long winter nights by the fire are not your thing, that’s OK, I’m with you, and this is why I prepared 159 additional countries for you to visit in my blog, so don’t be shy and click away!

Now. Cars. Yes. It’s a car site after all. The Icelandic car market, although very limited, has gone through a radical transformation since the economic crisis of 2008-2009…

You see Iceland being a rough country with some unsealed roads and all, 4WD are actually justified, not just for dropping the kids at school (they walk to school anyway because it’s around the corner). That is, if you have enough $$ to buy them.

Pre-crisis, there were a lot of 4WDs and SUVs among the best-selling models in Iceland. Precisely 11 in the Top 20. And if the Toyota Yaris (no, not a 4WD) was the Toyota Land Cruiser ranked #2 (admire it above in location – picture taken by myself yes sir)…

…the Toyota RAV4 was #5 and the Land Cruiser 200 was #7.

PosModel6m 2008%1Toyota Yaris4244.8%2Toyota Land Cruiser4184.7%3Skoda Octavia3754.2%4Toyota Auris2693.0%5Toyota Rav42562.9%6Subaru Legacy2142.4%7Toyota Land Cruiser 2001942.2%8Honda CR-V1561.8%9Hyundai Getz1531.7%10Toyota Corolla1511.7%11Hyundai i301451.6%12Subaru Forester1421.6%13Toyota Avensis1411.6%14Nissan Qashqai1401.6%15Suzuki Grand Vitara1331.5%16Hyundai Tucson1211.4%17VW Golf1211.4%18Hyundai Santa Fe1211.4%19Subaru Impreza1191.3%20Kia Sorento1181.3%

Then the crisis hit.

And the car market in Iceland was annihilated. At its worst, it was down 89 percent year-on-year over the first 5 months of 2009. Over the full year 2009 it was down 76 percent at 2,132 units. Since then it has slowly crept back up but is still nowhere near its pre-crisis levels: up 46 percent in 2010 at 3,106 units and a further 66 percent over the first 11 months of 2011 at 4,771 registrations. To be compared to 15,942 in 2007…

And with the crisis, a completely new set of cars appeared atop the best-seller rankings. The most recent data I have is already one year old and covers the first 7 months of 2010 but the difference is already striking. Much less 4WDs, only 2 in the Top 10: the Suzuki Grand Vitara and Toyota Land Cruiser 150.

Instead, it’s a (cold) flood of small cars: the VW Polo takes the lead with a very respectable 9 percent market share…

…followed by the Toyota Yaris at 7.3 percent (in-situ here courtesy of me)…

… then the Suzuki Swift at 6.5 percent

and the Hyundai i30 at 6.2 percent.

In the Top 10, there’s also the Chevrolet Spark…

…VW Golf and Hyundai i20!

PosModel2010%1VW Polo2179.0%2Toyota Yaris1757.3%3Suzuki Swift1566.5%4Hyundai i301496.2%5Suzuki Grand Vitara1365.7%6Skoda Octavia1074.5%7Chevrolet Spark954.0%8VW Golf873.6%9Toyota Land Cruiser 150843.5%10Hyundai i20803.3%11Toyota RAV4632.6%12Ford Focus612.5%13Toyota Avensis582.4%14Toyota Auris552.3%15Chevrolet Lacetti542.2%16Honda CR-V441.8%17Subaru Forester421.7%18Honda Jazz421.7%19Mazda3371.5%20Suzuki Jimny371.5%

And I can’t let you go without the traditional golden nugget that will make you shine in the darkness of boring dinners…

The Icelandic consumer is also rediscovering the joys of more rustic 4WDs, resuscitating the Lada Niva (up to

and the Land Rover Defender (at – granted, this is one overpriced 4WD but hey, it sold just 11 units, not enough to put the government in bankruptcy yet again…

If you want more sales data about Iceland click here.

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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5 of 16 comments
  • Ihatetrees Ihatetrees on Dec 27, 2011

    The cratering of Iceland's financial system and the subsequent switch away from 4wd shows that 2wd is, in fact, OK for the vast majority of buyers, even in Iceland. A co-worker just returned from a pre-Christmas visit. Winter is the off-peak time to go, but it's an expensive vacation. He met a fisherman who was a bank manager pre-financial meltdown... He said that meat is now a luxury for a middle class wage earner, although fish is cheap.

  • Krhodes1 Krhodes1 on Dec 27, 2011

    Iceland is dark in the winter, but not all THAT cold. The island pretty much sits in the middle of the Gulf Stream, and all that warm water keeps things pretty nice. I had an Icelandic roommate in college in Maine - according to her eastern Maine was MUCH colder than Rekjavic. I still remember an Icelandic joke she liked to tell: What do you do if you are lost in the forest in Iceland? Stand up.

    • See 2 previous
    • Loser Loser on Dec 28, 2011

      I was stationed in Iceland for one very long year. It wasn't a bad place but being away from the family sucked. Iceland was much warmer than the base in North Dakota I had just left. It was -30 when I left ND and +45 when I got to Iceland. The wind was something else, have never felt or seen wind like that in my life. Straps were installed on all vehicle doors to keep them from meeting the front fenders when the wind caught them. The wind was strong enough to move dumpsters.

  • Tassos What was the last time we had any good news from Ford? (or GM for that matter?)The last one was probably when Alan Mulally was CEO. Were you even born back then?Fields was a total disaster, then they go hire this clown from Toyota's PR department, the current Ford CEO, Fart-ley or something.He claims to be an auto enthusiast too (unlike Mary Barra who is even worse, but of course always forgiven, as she is the proud owner of a set of female genitals.
  • Tassos I know some would want to own a collectible Mustang. (sure as hell not me. This crappy 'secretary's car' (that was exactly its intended buying demo) was as sophisticated (transl. : CRUDE) as the FLintstone's mobile. Solid Real Axle? Are you effing kidding me?There is a huge number of these around, so they are neither expensive nor valuable.WHen it came out, it was $2,000 or so new. A colleague bought a recent one with the stupid Ecoboost which also promised good fuel economy. He drives a hard bargain and spends time shopping and I remember he paid $37k ( the fool only bought domestic crap, but luckily he is good with his hands and can fix lots of stuff on them).He told me that the alleged fuel economy is obtained only if you drive it like a VERY old lady. WHich defeats the purpose, of course, you might as well buy a used Toyota Yaris (not even a Corolla).
  • MRF 95 T-Bird Back when the Corolla consisted of a wide range of body styles. This wagon, both four door and two door sedans, a shooting brake like three door hatch as well as a sports coupe hatchback. All of which were on the popular cars on the road where I resided.
  • Wjtinfwb Jeez... I've got 3 Ford's and have been a defender due to my overall good experiences but this is getting hard to defend. Thinking the product durability testing that used to take months to rack up 100k miles or more is being replaced with computer simulations that just aren't causing these real-world issues to pop up. More time at the proving ground please...
  • Wjtinfwb Looks like Mazda put more effort into sprucing up a moribund product than Chevy did with the soon to be euthanized '24 Camaro.