By on January 2, 2012

In our whirlwind journey across the planet, over the past couple of weeks we stopped in South AfricaZimbabweNew Caledonia and Iceland. This week I will make it easy for you and will cover the entire world all at once…

Yes it is possible.

Now if this is way too much for you to absorb, that’s ok too because I have sales info for 160 countries for you to visit in my blog, all one by one. So don’t be shy and click away!

Back to the world.

Forbes has recently released its estimated list of the world’s best-selling models in 2011. As I spend my time counting cars all around the globe I’m sure you can imagine how hard it was for me to mask my excitement when I discovered that list…

Yes but.

There are a few things in their list that I am not too sure about…so follow me please over the jump.


The main event in 2011 is the fact that the Hyundai Elantra, outside the Top 10 in 2009 and 2010, is now the second best-selling nameplate on the planet with over 1 million units sold (1.01 million to be exact)…only 10,000 units below the Toyota Corolla! Yes sir, who would have thought the Elantra, with the new generation only one year old, would already threaten the Boss itself… Remember though that included in this figure are the two generations of the model that were on sale this year.

Now selling more than 1 million units in a single year is a feat not many cars have achieved in the past, and it is the first time a Korean model does so! A very, very significant benchmark indeed. Other millionaire cars that come to mind include the Ford Model T, VW Beetle, Chevrolet Impala, VW Golf, Ford F-Series and of course the Toyota Corolla.


So yes, Corolla still #1 in spite of tsunamis and floods that disrupted its production, but just. Moreover, it is unclear whether that 1.02 million figure includes the Auris hatchback, sold in some markets (Australia, South Africa) as a Corolla… If it does include the hatchback, then the Hyundai Elantra is the runaway leader.


In third place worldwide we find the Wuling Sunshine with 943,000 units sold. The Wuling Sunshine is a commercial minibus and the best-selling vehicle in China. Now I have reservations on this number because the Sunshine would have sold around 740,000 units in China this year and I’m not sure where the additional 200,000 sales come from…


Then in 4th position is the Ford Focus, now with a unified design all around the world, with 919,000 sales. This in spite of a slow start for the new generation that ranked 7th in Europe.


At #5 we have the Kia Rio/Pride with 815,337 units. This is an interesting one: yes, as a nameplate the Rio sells that much, but this figure is composed of 3 very different cars. Approximately 500,000 units are of the 1987 first generation Pride sold in Iran under a joint-venture with Saipa where it leads the market by far, the rest is a mix of 2005 Gen 2 and 2011 Gen 3…





At #6 comes the Ford Fiesta with 781,147 units, ahead of the VW Jetta at 745,000, Toyota Camry at 726,000 and Chevrolet Cruze at 691,000.

Here again the Jetta figure is composed of very different models: the 1984 second generation in China (pictured above), the 1998 fourth generation in China (called Bora) and Mexico (called Clasico) and the 2010 6th generation everywhere else…

The Cruze figure, nearly double that of last year and making it #9 in the world, is very impressive and reflects its success in as varied markets as the US, China and Australia.


Leader in Europe, the VW Golf is only #10 with 648,000 units, a far cry from the million units it used to sell worldwide around 10 years ago.

Now the Ford F-Series didn’t appear in Forbes ranking but based on US and Canada sales and the fact that it doesn’t sell much outside those 2 countries I have estimated it to be #11 with around 645,000 sales, ahead of the VW Passat and Honda Civic.

Best-selling nameplates in the world in 2011 (according to Forbes)

Pos Model 2011
1 Toyota Corolla 1,020,000
2 Hyundai Elantra 1,010,000
3 Wuling Sunshine 943,000
4 Ford Focus 919,000
5 Kia Pride 815,337
6 Ford Fiesta 781,147
7 VW Jetta 745,000
8 Toyota Camry 726,000
9 Chevrolet Cruze 691,000
10 VW Golf 648,000
11 Ford F-Series (e) 645,000
12 VW Passat 565,000
13 Honda Civic 555,071

Now I need to give you ammunition in case people challenge you when you share this ranking at posh dinners…

I’m sure you will notice the absence of such successful nameplates as the Toyota Hilux, Honda Accord, Opel Astra, Opel Corsa or VW Polo and the fact that there is no French car in the ranking.

Here are the explanations:

The Honda Accord sold around 230,000 units in the US, down 14%, and America is still by far its strongest market as the model doesn’t sell well in Europe or Asia, so no chance.

The Opel Astra, Corsa and VW Polo, although very successful in Europe where they sold between 280,000 (Astra) and 360,000 units (Polo), are not exceptionally strong anywhere else, preventing them to reach the highest ranks.

As for French models, again they are only truly popular in Europe, moreover both the Renault Clio and Peugeot 207 are at the end of their career, with their replacement both due in 2012 so even their European figures are not flash this year.

Last but not least, the Toyota Hilux. If you are an avid reader of my weekly updates you will know that the Hilux is estimated to be the best-selling model in no less than 33 countries around the globe. So the logic would dictate that you should at least see it in the worldwide Top 10, right?

Yes but 22 of these countries are in Africa where the volume are really low, with Thailand being its highest volume earner at around 100,000 units. So at maximum you are looking at 350,000 to 400,000 sales worldwide for the Hilux, which could possibly get it a spot in the Top 20, but certainly not in the Top 10…


The world’s best-selling models have no secrets for you anymore.

But please feel free to fire any questions you have, I will do my best to answer them.

Figures were sourced on Forbes, except for the Ford F-Series which is my estimate.

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

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

6 Comments on “Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: The Hyundai Elantra Becomes A Millionaire...”

  • avatar

    The Wuling is sold in some countries as a Chevrolet:

    Maybe that is where the additional 200,000 sales come from.

  • avatar

    I’d also be interested to know if the Elantra figures include Avante sales. The article mentions the Avante. So is the figure for just Elantra sales or does it include the same car with a different name? A list by platform would be nice.

    • 0 avatar

      There are no Elantra in South Korea where they are all called Avante, so my guess is yes, they are included. The Avante is a huge seller in Korea, and it would be hard to make those huge numbers without the sales in the home country.

  • avatar

    I would imagine this list includes every vehicle the company sells that is born of a nameplate, even if it is badged differently in another market. Hence Auris=Corolla like Matrix=Corolla. Also as ppxhbqt points out, Avante=Elantra. Same car, just a different name. This is different from ES350 and Camry, which are platform mates but not the same cars. So all the Jettas are technically Jettas (even the Boras), but Golfs are not Jettas, even tho they once shared a platform and everything but a trunk.

    All that being said, I’m not sure how that works for the Accord, the Euro version being a completely different car and platform, only the name being the same. I would say that Honda reports this as Accord/Aspire (NA/Japan), and the Euro Accord separately. But I’m not sure.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Matt, I’m not so sure about mixing the Saipa with the Kia models.

    AFAIK or IIRC, Saipa bought the license for the car in around 2002 (the exact year might be off). They do still produce the 1st gen Rio, although the “Pride” volume (as is still called internally) is around twice the Rio’s.

    I would expect the Cruze to climb some positions as it is launched in other markets as replacement of the Optra/Nubira/Lacetti/Viva/Whatever.

  • avatar
    car follower

    The Elantra was just named the car of the year at the Detroit Car Show. This will make a few more doubters take a look at the Elantra.
    Hyundai, I think is not a company that lets its cars die on the vine. I can see in another year they’ll put direct injection on that 1.8L and ramp up the power to that 160 to 165 range. Right now I would say there main competition in that class is that good looking Cruze. GM will have to turn up the wick on that 1.4L to get it from 148 to that 160 range like the Focus

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • EBFlex: *gave itself
  • JMII: +1 its purely lip service to consumers. The F&I office is a profit center and dealers will grease whoever...
  • Daveo: I had an F&I guy make me fill out a finance application when I was paying cash for the car because he got...
  • JMII: I’ve had dealers tell me “sorry but we charge everyone for these items, if we don’t we could...
  • FreedMike: I agree. And the folks who blame crashes on infotainment distraction probably haven’t had to drag a...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber