Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: What Europe Bought In 2012

Matt Gasnier
by Matt Gasnier

Now that almost all official data for the Full Year 2012 is available (Middle East is still to come in my books), and just as we are starting to get a feel for what 2013 could look like, I thought I would do a little summary for you of what happened in 2012 in the biggest markets in the world. We have gone through the Chinese market already, now let’s have a look at Europe….

Europe not your thing? That’s ok, you can check out the best-selling models and brands in 172 countries and territories on my blog. Enjoy!

Back to Europe. And it has been a difficult year for European sales, with only the UK among the Big 5 (Germany, UK, France, Italy, Spain) managing to gain ground vs. 2011. But the favourite car and carmaker on the continent are the same as last year…

See the Full Year 2012 European Top 10 carmakers here

Overall, new car sales in Europe are down 8 percent on 2011 to 12,573,842 registrations. Volkswagen remains the most popular brand in the continent, dropping slower than the market at -4% to 1,613,913 sales and as a result improving its market share to 12.8%. Ford stays #2 but falls by 13%. Opel/Vauxhall only owes its return onto the European podium at #3 to a disastrous year by Renault at -22%, muzzled by a dramatic fall of grace in UK due to its drastic range reduction there. The premium Germans are the only ones doing a really good job: Audi is up 3% to BMW up one spot on 2011 with stable sales at #8 and Mercedes also up one spot and 1% to #9.

See the Full Year 2012 European Top 10 carmakers here

The VW Golf manages to keep the pole position for the 5th year in a row but loses more ground than the market at -11% to 431,742 sales. This is potentially the Golf’s second weakest ever year in Europe after the 416,507 units it sold in 2006 when it ranked #4, and definitely its lowest volume at #1. The Golf ranked #1 each month in 2012 and peaked at 52,933 sales in March. It has now been #1 in Europe for 33 consecutive months (no interruption since March 2010), for 55 of the last 57 months and for 27 of the last 31 years…

See the Full Year 2012 European Top 10 models here

Renault Clio IV

All models bar one in the Top 10 fall faster than the market: the Ford Fiesta reclaims the 2nd spot it last held in 2010 with 306,405 sales, down 12%, while the VW Polo is down one rank to #3 at 287,828 units, down 20%. Boosted by the arrival of the 4th generation, the Renault Clio manages to climb back onto the podium in November and December but finishes the year at #5 like in 2011, down 17% and below the Opel Corsa down 18%. The Ford Focus (-15%) and Opel Astra (-20%) exchange positions compared to 2011.

See the Full Year 2012 European Top 10 models here

Nissan Qashqai

But the biggest event in the 2012 European Top 10 is the entrance of the Nissan Qashqai, up 4 spots and down just 0.3% year-on-year to rank #8 with 207,885 sales. To my knowledge this isthe first time ever a Japanese model manages to break into the European year-end Top 10! Before 2012, the Qashqai had only broken into the monthly Top 10 twice, in July 2010 and September 2011. It managed that feat 7 times this year, peaking at a record #7 in March and July.

See the Full Year 2012 European Top 10 models here

Toyota Yaris

No less than 3 models made their very first appearance in the monthly European Top 10 this year: the Skoda Octavia did so in January, the Toyota Yaris in March and repeated the performance in September

Peugeot 208

…and the Peugeot 208 shot up directly to #5 in July, climbed onto the podium in August and hit a best-ever #2 in December. The Audi A4 for its part reappeared in the Top 10 in August and for the first time since January 2009 while the BMW 3 Series climbed into the Top 10 3 times this year: in April, June and December when it reached its highest ranking since September 2007

Now you know all there is to know about the best-selling cars and carmakers in Europe!

You’re welcome!

All the data is sourced on and includes the 27 European Union countries minus Bulgaria, Romania and Malta, plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.

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

Join the conversation
2 of 4 comments
  • Stephenjmcn Stephenjmcn on Feb 04, 2013

    The Yaris and Qashqai are produced in Europe (France & UK respectively), certainly the Qashqai is gaining traction here as a 'local' product. That said, Toyota produce other models here (Avensis, Auris), and these remain bit-part players, which only goes to show that the products must also be appealing!

  • Mike978 Mike978 on Feb 04, 2013

    VW does well in Germany with >20% market share and Germany is the largest market. But with 13% market share across Europe that means VW must sell poorly in quite a few countries. I assume France and/or Italy, since VW is very popular in the UK.

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