Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: What Europe Buys Right Now

Matt Gasnier
by Matt Gasnier

While the European car market is slowly but surely falling into another recession that could well last much longer than the previous one, let’s take the opportunity to have a look at what cars sell best there – if they sell.

Couldn’t care less about Europe and you just want to know which cars sell best in your own backyard? Easy. You can visit 168 countries and territories in my blog, one by one, in the comfort of your own lounge. That’s right!

Back to Europe.

And there’s one French newcomer pointing its bonnet up at the top of the ranking…

New car sales in Europe are down a worrying 8 percent year-on-year in July to 970,271 registrations, bringing the year-to-date total to 8,035,439 units, down 5 percent on 2011. ( August data is available but July has more detail so far which is why I’m focusing on it) Most analysts predict an 8 percent year-on-year overall fall by the end of the 2012, but it could get worse. And no one predicts the market to rebound in 2013, on the contrary it could fall further down.

There are only two models in the Top 10 losing less than 10 percent year-on-year so not a good look this month… The VW Golf keeps the lead by far but is at down 17 percent on July 2011 to 32,403 sales, followed by the VW Polo at -23 percent and the Ford Fiesta at -11 percent. Year-to-date, the Golf is #1 at -5 percent ahead of the Fiesta (-8 percent) and Polo (-13 percent).

In spite of sales down 20 percent on July 2011 to 18,124, the Opel/Vauxhall Astra is up to its best European ranking since… September 2010!

But the big event this month in Europe is the arrival of the Peugeot 208 in the Top 10 for the very first time, only 4 months after its predecessor the 207′s last Top 10 showing in March. It sells 17,986 units this month, adding up to 55,598 year-to-date and is already the best-selling French car on the continent. For reference, the 206-207 changeover took one less month back in 2006, with the 206 last appearing in the European Top 10 in April and the 207 breaking into it for the first time in July.

Another great performer this month is the Nissan Qashqai, reaching its highest-ever ranking in Europe at #6 with 16,750 sales, down 6 percent year-on-year. The Qashqai is now #8 year-to-date with 134,166 units, up 2 percent and the only model in the 2012 Year-to-date Top 10 to see its sales increase on 2011. It is the 6th time the Qashqai ever ranks within the European Top 10 after July 2010 ( September 2011 ( January 2012 ( March 2012 ( and June 2012 ( This is potentially the highest monthly ranking ever reached by a Japanese model in Europe.

Europe July 2012 Top 10

PosModelJuly/11Jun2012/11Pos20111VW Golf32,403-17%1278,470-5%112VW Polo23,512-23%3192,469-13%323Ford Fiesta21,902-11%4204,247-8%234Opel Astra18,124-20%6153,342-18%665Peugeot 20817,986newn/a55,598new 44 –6Opel Corsa17,739-18%2176,153-9%447Nissan Qashqai16,750-6%9134,1662%8128Ford Focus16,711-32%8160,225-9%579Renault Clio16,490-23%7150,413-19%7510Renault Megane16,287-14%5130,219-13%99

Outside the Top 10, let’s have a closer look at the year-to-date ranking. The Fiat Panda is up to #11 thanks to its outstanding performance in Italy, but is still a good 13,000 units away from a spot in the Top 10 most popular cars in Europe. The Skoda Octavia is #12 while the BMW 3 Series is #14 and the VW Tiguan up one to a best-ever #17 vs. #35 in 2011!

You can check out the entire Top 325 best-selling models in Europe over 7 months 2012 here

The Mercedes B-Class is up to the Nissan Juke up to a record #34 and the Opel Zafira up to #39 thanks to the new Zafira Tourer. The VW Up! is one of the two newcomers in the Top 50 (with the Peugeot 208), landing at #45 with 59,328 units. Further down, notice the Kia Cee’d up to the Audi Q3 up to #63 and the Mercedes M-Class up to

Among other new models for 2012, the Mazda CX-5 is up to the VW Beetle up to the Dacia Lodgy up to with 9,200 sales, the Skoda Citigo up to the Seat Mii up to the Kia Optima up to the Peugeot 4008 up to and the Toyota GT86 up to

The Toyota Prius has now a little more room to breathe in the hybrid/electric cars ranking, pointing its bonnet at with 13,552 sales while the Lexus CT is down to at 10,520 units. The Opel Ampera is up to ahead of the Nissan Leaf down to but passing the Honda Insight, down to while the Toyota Prius+ makes its first appearance in the European ranking at with 1,640 sales, followed by the Honda CR-Z down to Note overall European sales of Chevrolet Volt are unavailable at this stage.

A few other models show themselves for the first time: the Volvo V40 lands directly at with 1,588 sales, the Chevrolet Camaro ranks with 1,586 units, the Lexus GS is with 1,187 sales, the Lancia Flavia is the Ford B-Max is the Peugeot 301 the Citroen C-Elysee the Dacia Dokker and the Renault Zoe with 11 units sold.

The second half of the ranking still features a good number of luxury cars totally unaffected by the gloomy European sales context. The Porsche Cayenne is up to the Mercedes CLS at the Porsche Panamera at the Bentley Continental GT/GTC is the Ferrari 458 Italia the Mercedes SLS AMG the Audi R8 the Aston Martin V8/V12 Vantage the Ferrari California the Maserati GranTurismo the Rolls Royce Ghost and the Lamborghini Aventador at

You can check out the entire Top 325 best-selling models in Europe over 7 months 2012 here

Note: The Top 325 ranking include sales in Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the UK.

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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4 of 8 comments
  • Krhodes1 Krhodes1 on Sep 30, 2012

    How much of the VWs drop year over year is due to the model changeover? Most cars in Europe are ordered, so there is very little inventory sitting on dealers lots, unlike in the US. So I would imagine that a major model change would result in a big drop for a month or so. Why would there be any sales of the Chevy Volt in Europe - isn't it ONLY sold as the Opel Ampera?

    • See 1 previous
    • Spw Spw on Sep 30, 2012

      first time i heard that "most" cars are ordered in Europe... btw, Golf dropped very little but Polo is not old model. Its sales dropped because of competition, lower general sales in Europe as well as VW Up!

  • Th009 Th009 on Sep 30, 2012

    @Matt, how do the 208 numbers compare to the 207? It would really be helpful to treat them as the same model, just a new generation.

  • Inside Looking Out This is actually the answer to the question I asked not that long ago.
  • Inside Looking Out Regarding "narrow windows" - the trend is that windows will eventually be replaced by big OLED screens displaying some exotic place or may even other planet.
  • Robert I have had 4th gen 1996 model for many years and enjoy driving as much now as when I first purchased it - has 190 hp variant with just the right amount of power for most all driving situations!
  • ToolGuy Meanwhile in Germany...
  • Donald More stuff to break god I love having a nanny in my truck... find a good tuner and you can remove most of the stupid stuff they add like this and auto park when the doors open stupid stuff like that