Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: What The French Have Been Buying For The Last 60 Years

Matt Gasnier
by Matt Gasnier

After taking you on trips to Monaco, the world for an eventful April World Round-up and the Top 100 best-selling models worldwide over the First Quarter of 2012, this week I will take you on a trip through space AND time, going through the cars the French have been buying for the last 60 years.

And the answer is yes: they are all French. Never has a foreign model managed to top the sales charts in France, not even on the podium or in the Top 5…

Enough of the French? I don’t blame you, so you can visit 163 additional countries and territories in my blog, go on, you know you want to!

Back to the French…

First of all may I just say that this is just a summary.

And if you are interested in lots and lots of data (as I know some of you are), you can check out the best-selling models in France for each and every year since 1949 here. I’ve even pushed the envelope to display the sales of absolutely every single model in France from 1984 to 1993, a rare Top 20 including imports for 1966 and 1967, and every monthly Top 10 ranking from January 1982 to December 1992 and from June 2004 onwards…

There. This should keep you occupied for a few days…

Back to the summary.

Since 1949 it’s either a Renault or a Peugeot that topped the models ranking in France, except for 3 times: the Simca Aronde was #1 in 1956

…the Citroen Ami 6 was the only Citroen in the last 60 years to hold the top spot in the country in 1966, the legendary 2CV never topped the French rankings…

…nor did the more luxurious and revolutionary DS.

Lastly the Simca 1100 ranked #1 in 1972.

While it’s aiming at the top spot in 2013 with the 208…

Peugeot had 4 cars reigning over the French models ranking, starting in 1969 with the 204

…followed by the 205 in 1984, 1985, 1990 and 1991

…the 206 in 2001 & 2004

and the 207 from 2007 to 2010.

Renault has been the most successful brand in France over the last 60 years, starting with the 4CV in 1949 (the year indicates the start of their stint at

…the Dauphine in 1957

…the Renault 4 in 1962, it would end up being the most popular car ever built in France with over 8 million units…

…the Renault 12 in 1973

Renault 5 in 1974 (sold as Le Car in the USA….with mixed results to put it mildly)

Supercinq in 1986

Clio in 1992

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  • Svenmeier Svenmeier on Jun 16, 2012

    I grew up during the '50s and '60s and have many wonderful experiences with most of the cars on those lists. My first car was a Citroen 2CV. Wonderful car. It was cheaply built but it was reliable and comfortable and fun to drive believe it or not. The main problem was rust and material wear and tear but those could easily be replaced which meant that 2CV owners could keep the car for a very long time. The Renault 4 was also an amazing car. I remember when it was first shown in public and how we were all in awe of how advanced it was. The R4 as we called it was a small car but it was so spacious inside thanks to intelligent design. In France and Switzerland at the time it was considered fairly quick and fast, at least when compared to the 2CV. Wonderful cars.

  • Pugpal Pugpal on Nov 24, 2012

    I am not a fan of French cars per se, nor am I a fan of Peugeot cars across the board. Indeed, I think PSA have produced a number of very mediocre cars over the years, cars that I would never buy. I just wouldn’t put the 404, the 504 or IMHO, their best car, the 505 in that category. By way of disclosure, I have owned Peugeot 4 or 5 series cars continuously since 1976. It started with a used but well-engineered 1970 404 wagon and later, a used but utterly bulletproof 1974 504 wagon. Being 6 foot 3 inches tall, the 404 and the five series cars fit my frame like a glove. Ergonomics are nigh on perfect. Chassis and mechanical engineering is excellent. Thanks to the Italian flair for classic style (Grazie, Pininfarina!) the styling never ages. The 404s, 504s and 505s have been remarkably reliable (with a few exceptions) and are fearless in the worst weather imaginable, including firing up easily during very cold weather, loving to be driven in deep snow (wagons especially) and can handle ice with aplomb – the Michelin X-Ice tires being a big help. The 505 has impeccable road manners and is remarkably spacious for its size: I have had 38 bankers boxes in my wagon. Since 1982, I have had every type of 505 except a diesel powered one. (Not by choice, only because I could not find one.) Sedans and wagons, automatics and manuals, four bangers, turbos, V6s, leather, cloth, you name it. They were all exceptional vehicles in almost every respect. Yes, they had their faults and each one of them put me on the side of the road at least once in 30 years, but those were few and easily forgotten when, after every trip, you left the car with a smile on your face and often turned your head to look back at it. No, I don’t worship my 505s, they are man-made pieces of metal, plastic and rubber, but I do appreciate them. With my current fleet about 26 years old, and with about 5 more years life left in them under Canadian winter/salt conditions, I have been looking for a suitable replacement if and when they ever die. I will not look forward to that day, for they are old friends and almost part of the family. Acceptable replacements are very few especially a replacement for the formidable 505 wagon. Sedan-wise, the new Passat TDI and the Camry SE/Hybrid are the only cars on my short list at the moment, each with serious reservations. The Peugeot 508, which is available only in Europe, looks promising, but alas, even it lacks some of the endearing qualities of the 505 – perfect sight lines and in the wagon, uncompromised utility. The 505 – one of the best kept automotive secrets in North America.

  • Syke Very. Having Apple CarPlay in my Bolt has been an eye-opener for me. One of those "got along fine without it until I tried it, now, how did I ever live without it?" applications. Yes, I'll accept an equivalent, maybe, after I've tried it out for awhile.
  • Teddyc73 Oh look, dull dreary grey with black trim. How original. The greying of America continues.
  • Redapple2 It doesnt cost much for the mfr to add it as standard. Car makers always strive to surprise and delight the customer. Always ask yourself when considering a new ride, are they trying to take of me- treat me or screw me hard. Take the vampire. A couple quick- come to mind -examples. 1 deleting carplay. 2 buy a Denali and Chrystal Pearl White paint is $1295. On a 2024 Subaru Forester is free. I d put it to you, the Forester's paint is better. Do your own test. Is the Evil gm Vampire trying to Surprise and delight you or screw you??
  • Tassos Wise decision, esp if we are talking about UAW goons. ANd never hire them back, AUTOMATE or shut down the joint.
  • JK I grew up with Dodge trucks in the US, and now live in Turin, Italy, the home of Fiat. I don't think Italians view this as an Italian company either. There are constant news articles and protests about how stalantis is moving operations out of Italy. Jeep is strangely popular here though. I think last time I looked at stelantis's numbers, Jeep was the only thing saving them from big big problems.