Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: The Millionaire Cars

Matt Gasnier
by Matt Gasnier

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.

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2 of 20 comments
  • Pan Pan on Jun 29, 2012

    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.

  • Marcelo de Vasconcellos Marcelo de Vasconcellos on Jun 29, 2012

    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. Thanks!

  • Inside Looking Out In June 1973, Leonid Brezhnev arrived in Washington for his second summit meeting with President Richard Nixon. Knowing of the Soviet leader’s fondness for luxury automobiles, Nixon gave him a shiny Lincoln Continental. Brezhnev was delighted with the present and insisted on taking a spin around Camp David, speeding through turns while the president nervously asked him to slow down.
  • Bobby D'Oppo Great sound and smooth power delivery in a heavier RWD or AWD vehicle is a nice blend, but current V8 pickup trucks deliver an unsophisticated driving experience. I think a modern full-size pickup could be very well suited to a manual transmission.In reality, old school, revvy atmo engines pair best with manual transmissions because it's so rewarding to keep them in the power band on a winding road. Modern turbo engines have flattened the torque curve and often make changing gears feel more like a chore.
  • Chuck Norton For those worried about a complex power train-What vehicle doesn't have one? I drive a twin turbo F-150 (3.5) Talk about complexity.. It seems reliability based on the number of F-150s sold is a non-issue. As with many other makes/models. I mean how many operations are handle by micro today's vehicles?
  • Ravenuer The Long Island Expressway.
  • Kwik_Shift A nice stretch of fairly remote road that would be great for test driving a car's potential, rally style, is Flinton Road off of Highway 41 in Ontario. Twists/turns/dips/rises. Just hope a deer doesn't jump out at you. Also Highway 60 through Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario. Great scenery with lots of hills.