By on June 29, 2012

Yes. This week I keep coming back because I have decided to spoil you good. After travelling 20 years back to the year of the Taurus and the much anticipated May World Roundup, today we explore the models that have managed to sell above 1 million units in a single year around the world.

Doesn’t seem like much, but it’s actually pretty rare for a single nameplate.

If that doesn’t sound like fun to you I won’t get offended, because you can check out the best-selling cars in 166 countries and territories on my blog. They’re all there and they’re waiting for you so click away!

Back to millionaires.

And the very first model to break the mythical barrier of one million units produced or sold in one year was the Ford Model T…

If millionaire models are still very rare nowadays you can imagine how huge a feat it would have been in 1922, 13 years after the introduction of the Model T to the US and the world, when the 1,301,067 units were churned out of Ford factories spread across the planet.

The year after in 1923, the Ford Model T became the first and only model to date to be produced at over 2 million units in a single year with 2,011,125 units. This is still today the highest annual production figure ever achieved by a single model. By then Ford was building Model T’s at a rate of up to 10,000 cars a day! For yearly production figures of the Model T click here.

The next model to achieve millionaire status is the VW Beetle. Over 25 years after its conception, 1 million Beetles came out of the Wolfsburg factory in Germany in 1965 and in 1971 1.3 million units were produced around the world, the highest yearly figure in the nameplate’s 65 year-life. I estimate that the Beetle was above 1 million annual units between 1965 and 1972.

1965 was the year of millionaires: that year the Chevrolet Impala sold 1,074,925 units in the US alone, still to this date the highest annual sales volume ever achieved by a single model in the US since World War II. In fact no other model has managed to sell over a million annual units in the US since while the Impala did it twice, passing the million benchmark again in 1966.

We then had to wait at least 20 years to welcome a new member in the millionaire club: the Toyota Corolla. Best-selling car in the world intermittently from the late seventies onwards, the Corolla could have potentially broken the million benchmark as early as in the mid-eighties, then passing it officially in 2005 (1.185m) and 2011 (1.142m).

Helped by tremendous success at home, the Ford F-Series truck sold 1,006,325 units around the world in 2000, 87% of which in the US. This is the only millionaire year for the F-Series I have official data for, however I estimate it has passed the benchmark 4 more times: in 1999 (estimated 1.001m sales), 2001 (1.047m), 2004 when it sold a record 939,511 units in the US (est. world 1.082m) and 2005 (1.031m).

Finally the VW Golf is the 6th millionaire nameplate, selling an official 1,143,044 units worldwide in 2000, but potentially passing the benchmark in 1993 also.

You can check out the full list of millionaire models through the years here.

That’s all for today! Thanks for listening.

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!

20 Comments on “Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: The Millionaire Cars...”

  • avatar

    It would certainly be nice if Chevy could offer an Impala that would break that barrier again. I’d be first in line.

    Who knows what my next car will be?

    2MM units in one year for the Model T? I never knew that! Amazing.

  • avatar

    I want one of those Model T’s. It’s the everything vehicle…car, truck, SUV, hatchback, wagon. Cheap. I’m living in the wrong era.

  • avatar

    What was so great about the 1965 Impala that made it sell over a million units? How many assembly plants did it take to crank out that many?

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Good timing. ’65 was the first year for the coke-bottle body at GM, and the economy had perked up enough that people were ready and able to buy a big car again. Chrysler had spent most of the previous decade shooting itself in the nuts, and Ford was just muddling along apart from the Mustang.

      • 0 avatar

        Everybody talks about what a sensation the 1964 Mustang was. I don’t see it on this list. Chevy must have been crying all the way to the bank.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        First year (including the so-called 64 and a half, so about 18 months’ worth) was just under 560,000 units for the Moose from 3 plants. Definitely a good showing, but not in Impala territory.

      • 0 avatar

        Wikipedia says that Ford built more than a million Mustangs in the first 18 months. Where did you get the 560,000 figure?

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        There are various production totals for the Mustang, depending on eaxctly what you want to count. 560k seems to be the total for the ’65 propers, with another 120k or so for the early ones. Wikipedia has a nice graph:

    • 0 avatar

      Our family was one of the over one million that bought a 1965 Impala. Back then, GM Assembly plants were not as specialized as they are today. So, the Impala was produced at most GM Assembly plants in the various regions of the US and probably Canada. South Gate, California produced most of the GM nameplates, for example. While engines and some transmissions were different, Fisher Body enforced commonality as well as the new perimeter frame made it easy to run full-size Pontiacs, Buicks and Oldmobiles down the same line as Chevys.

  • avatar

    The model T with 4wd is cool, simple and easy to use.

  • avatar

    Good stuff Matt. Very interesting. This list has a lot more diversity than one might expect.

  • avatar

    Not bad for all these models. Didn’t the Model T have to be driven up steeper inclines in reverse, due to the gravity-fed fuel pump?

  • avatar
    el scotto

    The Model T and the Beetle were mechanically stone simple. Some cause and effect going on?

  • avatar

    Yes, the Model T relied on gravity feed from the gas tank at the rear of the car, so some grades required going up in reverse. Henry chose to avoid the trivial complexity and expense of the vacuum tank common on other vehicles of the time. And when the Model A came along, even very steep grades were no problem, because the gas tank had been moved to the eminently sensible location of the driver’s lap!

  • avatar

    The only explanation that I have for the Model T’s million unit years in the mid 1920s was that Ford had gotten the cost down so far that the T competed strictly on price. Henry Ford thought that the Model T was the perfect car, for all times. Remember, by 1922, the Model T had been in production for 14 years. Think about how much the automobile and related technologies changed between 1908 and 1922. One reason why the Dodge brothers wanted to build their own cars (starting in 1914) instead of just supplying Ford with Model T rolling chassis was that they wanted to make a better car. By 1922 the T was obsolete, technologically inferior to the cars that were sold by Dodge, Chevrolet and Essex. Henry Ford had to be dragged kicking and screaming into developing what became the Model A. When he discovered that Edsel had made a prototype revised Model T, Henry physically attacked the prototype. According to some accounts, after Edsel died in 1943 and a senile Henry Ford took over managing FoMoCo, he told associates that he wanted to put the Model T back into production.

    That’s not to say that Henry didn’t change the T over the years. I don’t know how many parts a 1908 T shares with a 1926 T, but Henry was married to the basic concept. BTW, if you’d like to see just about every kind of Model T made, visit the Piquette Ave. Model T factory in Detroit. They’re developing a museum there and in addition to their own collection, they let Model T owners store their cars there.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Well into the 1920s, most roads in the US were still rutty dirt paths that were swamps in wet weather and dust swirls in dry weather. There was still a good market for the T, if the price was low enough. Roads did get a lot better during that decade, though. I once came across a late 1940s reference to the ’20s as “the golden age of highway construction” in the US.

  • avatar

    Surprised to read that ’65 was such a big year for Chev. My Father bought a new Olds. in’65, and it was just a “badge-engineered Chev,
    What a pile of junk. It shook, rattled, and rusted. I later read that it was no longer built in Lansing by the descendants of German immigrants imbued with the “Protestant Work Ethic”.
    As time went on, G.M. badge-engineered all its cars into the ground. Now, their new models seem to be of European and Korean origin.

  • avatar

    Great article Matt!

    How about an article on cars that sold over their careers more than 10 million? Could be some surprises there. THe Corsa, Palio and Gol have all sold more than 2 million in Brazil alone! Could be some great surprises there.


Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • RHD: The original post in this thread had the analysis of its content in the very last line: “All BS.”...
  • Inside Looking Out: Grishka Rasputin is a brand of vodka.
  • redgolf: “The rule of thumb is never buy first year production cars” I disagree, I bought a 97 Pontiac GP...
  • SD 328I: Isn’t the current Ranger outselling everyone but the Tacoma? The current Ranger is nowhere near the...
  • SD 328I: You can blame VW for the larger Ranger, the next Amarok is going to be based on the Ranger, and they needed...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

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