By on March 26, 2013

We have now gone to ChinaEuropeRussiaIndiaIsraelItaliaIndonesiaFranceCanada and Germany to explore what cars these countries bought in 2012. While we’re at it, why not explore the entire world?

Way too much to stomach? That’s ok, you can check the best-selling models and brands in 173 different countries and territories on my blog, one by one. So enjoy!

Back to the world. No one up to now had dared to publish a worldwide models ranking because of all the controversy: why is this model not counted as a separate one? But what about the sedan version? The Jetta is really a Golf with a boot, so why don’t you count them together? Is this a Chevrolet, a Buick or an Opel? And so on. But that was up to now. And now is the time to break the last car sales data taboo, take the bull by the horns, draw a line in the sand, or whatever tired expression you choose to insert here.

At last.

I give you the 1000 (yes, one thousand) best-selling models around the planet in 2012.

Jump in.

Now I know not everyone will agree with this ranking, so feel free to rant! This ranking is an estimation based on official data in 100 countries. Some models have official sales data (most UK brands, Renault and Chevrolet models for example), some are the results of long nights of work spent adding sales in each country that gives official data.

All the detail of what models are counted within which nameplates can be found at the very bottom of the linked page below.

Discover the Top 1000 best-selling models worldwide in 2012 here

Actually let me correct this straight away: we are in fact talking about the Top 937 best-sellers worldwide as there are not enough models in the world to make a Top 1000! More detailed sales data for the Toyota Corolla means the Auris, Matrix and Rumion were all shed, so we have a sales figure for the Corolla sedan worldwide spanning 3 generations (IX still on sale in China, X on sale worldwide, and XI on sale in Japan). It was a tight race with the Ford Focus, which has the benefit of hatchback, station wagon and sedan versions spanning two generations. Corolla leads once more with 1,097,132 sales vs. 1,036,683 for the Focus, showing the impact the Chinese market had this year: the Islands row disadvantaged the Corolla sales while the Focus brilliantly took the Passenger Car crown in extremis at the end of the year…

Ford Focus. Picture courtesy of www.autowp.ruIts tremendous success in China nearly pushed the Ford Focus to #1 worldwide in 2012…

Hyundai Elantra. Picture courtesy of Hyundai Elantra makes it 3 compact cars on the worldwide podium in 2012…

Toyota Camry. Picture courtesy of Toyota RussiaThe Toyota Camry (Russian version pictured) is #4 in the world this year

Chevrolet Cruze. Picture courtesy of www.autowp.ruThe Chevrolet Cruze ranks 6th worldwide in 2012.

Discover the Top 1000 best-selling models worldwide in 2012 here

In an outstanding third place we find the Hyundai Elantra with 829,192 sales spanning 3 generations and helped by the launch of the new gen in China this year. The Toyota Camry ranks 4th at 797,466 units including the Aurion which is in essence the Chinese and Russian Camry, while the Ford F-Series rounds up the Top 5 with 785,028 sales, followed by the Chevrolet Cruze at 784,014 units, however both only relying one one single generation.

Discover the Top 1000 best-selling models worldwide in 2012 here

VW Passat (US version shown)

Discover the Top 1000 best-selling models worldwide in 2012 here

The VW Passat is #7, ahead of the Nissan Tiida/Versa/Sunny. Nissan has not been kind to us stat fans by naming their models completely differently in separate regions and not replacing them with their logical successors. It’s a mess: in Australia for example, the new Sylphy and 2nd gen Tiida are both called Pulsar while the Versa sedan is named Almera… So I’ve done my best to keep it simple in the ranking but it’s not perfect.

Discover the Top 1000 best-selling models worldwide in 2012 here

VW Golf

Discover the Top 1000 best-selling models worldwide in 2012 here

One notch below we find the VW Golf at #9, Ford Fiesta and the VW Polo/Vento. This might look like a low ranking for the Golf but this year the Golf Plus was stripped out, and also remember the Jetta (#18) is in effect its sedan version, with both models adding up to almost 1.3 million sales worldwide.

Discover the Top 1000 best-selling models worldwide in 2012 here

Honda CR-V. Picture courtesy of www.autowp.ruThe Honda CR-V is the best-selling SUV in the world in 2012

Discover the Top 1000 best-selling models worldwide in 2012 here

Other notable appearances in the Top 20 include the Toyota Hilux at #15 with 637,706 units, the Honda CR-V best-selling SUV in the world thanks to the new gen at #16 and 635,256 sales, the Suzuki Swift boosted by the huge success in India of both its hatchback and sedan (DZire) versions at #19 and 532.462 units and the Wuling Sunshine #1 Chinese vehicle at #20 with 523,724 sales. 

Discover the Top 1000 best-selling models worldwide in 2012 here

There you go.

You now know everything to know about what cars the world bought in 2012.

Next I will take you through the best-sellers segment by segment.

You’re welcome.

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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13 Comments on “The 1000 (One. Thousand.) Best Selling Cars Around The Globe in 2012...”

  • avatar

    wow, wow, wow! Thanks Matt. Boy, let me tell you, i think buyers the world over are crazy. Of the top 10, the only ones that hold any interest for me are the focus and versa, and even then i think i’d buy different. Elantra, Corolla, Camry, Passat, Polo, CRV???? No way Jose.

    Matt, i know you’ve been working over time, but a ranking of the world’s top brands (chevy, cadillac, buick etc.) and then a ranking of the world’s top car groups (gm) would interest me greatly.

    Fwiw, i think your ranking is the best, cause it’sthe most comprehensive i’ve ever seen. Thanks for another great one.

    • 0 avatar
      Athos Nobile

      I wouldn’t say people is crazy. I would say that common sense is (still) alive and well with a lot of people. People (still) wants to get the most value for their money, and I’m pretty much sure they think those cars deliver.

      It also shows their manufacturers are actually putting a car out there that matches their needs.

      • 0 avatar

        Hola Athos!

        So I must be crazy then and don’t give value to my money? Naw, it’s just that I want different things for my money and put value on other stuff.

        Sorry people of the world, but HyundaiToyotaVWHonda don’t do it for me. Hope they do fine for you all.

        I’m just glad I see value and have been able to buy FordRenaultFiat and hope to be able to do so for some time yet.

        Maybe in future there could even be something different in my stable, but at this moment in time, of the cars offered in Brazil, I could see myself in a product or another of the 3 mentioned and maybe a Citroen or even a Chevy which would be firsts. Nissan maybe. The others? No, thanks.

        I probably should thank Nissan and Chrysler for that.

        • 0 avatar
          Athos Nobile

          “So I must be crazy then and don’t give value to my money?”

          I didn’t say that.

          My point was (and is) that everyone has their preferences, and to the customers of THOSE cars, they’re good value for the money. And they indeed are, I have no doubt on that, specially the Corolla.

          I don’t exactly sit in the “potential customer” queue for most of them (for multiple reasons), but don’t close the chance to myself to driving or owning any of them at some point.

          • 0 avatar

            Hey Athos!

            I got that. It was a rhetorical question. I was asking myself are all those people wrong and I’m right? And is was a way to underscore the same point you were making. Pointing out that different strokes for different folks.

            Now, the Corolla..Or I or it would have to change a lot. If I was forced, yes forced cause cars in that category don’t attract me at all (especially here with the existence of LoganCobaltVersa), I’d probably pick a Cruze.

            See, I don’t close myself to any possibility either. 5 yrs ago, no even 3 yrs ago if you told me one day I’d buy a Chevy I’d call you crazy. Now, in a category that interests me, the “Logan” category, I think the Chevy Cobalt is the pick of the litter. Heck, even in the small category that also interests me, I think the Onix is very strong (should have something up on that soon, putting the finishing touches).

            I buy what I like. I don’t buy makers nonsense about brands. I also weigh cost benefit very, very carefully. In my particular part of the world, almost none of the cars in the world top 10 are specially strong on cost benefit. What constitutes my cost benefit is very peculiar to me.

  • avatar

    I knew the Cruze must be selling all over when I saw it in one of those dash cam Russian car wreck videos on youtube.

    • 0 avatar

      You are correct.

      I saw lots of Cruzes when i was in Russia. Russians love sedans like Americans.

      They all have dash cams so they can prove who caused a accident. It’s nearly impossible otherwise.

  • avatar

    Was there a link to the top 1000 somewhere?

  • avatar

    The ‘not-ready-for-prime-time’ Leaf outsold 532 other models worldwide – not bad.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    If you add the Toyota Tacoma sales to the Hi-lux It would beat the F-150. I know it’s not the same but still…

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