Dispatches Do Brasil: Brazil's Top 10 Best-Selling Cars Of All-Time

Marcelo de Vasconcellos
by Marcelo de Vasconcellos

According to this Brazilian site, this is the list of the 10 most sold cars in the history of Brazil. Some of them are just for us, while others have been sold in other countries, even in the First World, even if under a different brand, or a different company altogether. Do you think you have a clue? Don’t worry if you don’t, even I was surprised by some.

10th place: Ford Fiesta, 1.2 million and counting

A late comer to Brazil, it only arrived on our shores in its third generation and soon gained local production. Fun to drive, its new version will surely push the nameplate up in the ranking.

9th place: Ford Corcel, 1.3 million

Under the Corcel name, it was produced from 1968-1986. It quite surprised me that it ranked so high because it was never cheap. However, it was the middle class dream for much of its production period. Curiously, this Ford hit is not a Ford. In Brazil, Willys Overland produced Renault cars. When Ford bought the Willys factory, the Renault 12, which this car was, was almost ready. Ford took it, changed the design a little and called it good. It even used Renault’s CHT engine!

8th place: Volkswagen Kombi, 1.5 million

What can one say? It clearly outlived its welcome. It was the 2nd or 3rd car produced in Brazil, even before the Beetle, but after the Chevy Amazonas and Romi-Isetta. Thankfully, new safety regulations killed it off. Here, it was never a hippie car. Rather it served as a family car and as a work horse. By the end of the 60s families had given up on it, but it went on, almost unchanged, and in heavy demand by small businesses, tradesmen etc. until its final demise.

7th place: Chevrolet Corsa, 1.5 million and counting (sort of)

Still in production, albeit called Classic and only as a sedan, the sedan version been outclassed by the more modern compact sedans I have extensively covered for TTAC. However, it lives on due to its bargain basement price and Chevy’s good reputation. The hatch, which would have made up the largest portion of sales, bowed out sooner and with a wimp, a pale memory of the stir created at launch. The cheapest sedan in Brazil!

6th place: Chevrolet Chevette, 1.6 million

This one surprised me. I had no inkling it had sold in such numbers. It was sold all over the world, and clearly Brazilians view on it was much more positive (produced from 1973 to 1994) than the Americans’, where it enjoyed a much shorter life. Curiously, and in direct contrast to the view that we always produce just leftovers from the first world, this car was launched here first, then in Europe, then in America. By the time I came of driving age, it was hideously outdated with its RWD layout and unimpressive internal room.

5th place: Chevrolet Celta, 1.7 million and counting

A simplified version of the Corsa, it rides (very roughly) on the same old (very simplified) platform with little space and some of the cheapest “finishing” one would imagine possible. On the bright side, Chevy’s 1.0 engines are quite strong and pull this featherweight with something approaching gusto.

4th place: Fiat Palio, 2.5 million and counting

Making its debut in 1996, the Palio hatch spawned a large, successful family. Initially a derivation of the old Fiat Uno, it’s now a hybrid between some New Uno and Punto parts. It has established itself as a reliable, affordable car that is not the best of almost anything in its class, but is far from being the worst at anything.

3rd place: Volkswagen Fusca (Beetle), 3 million

Officially, the first Brazilian produced car (not true), it was launched here in 1959 and stayed in production until 1986. Amazingly, it was resurrected in 1993 and lasted another 3 years. Some Fusca sales facts are astonishing, for example, it held over 65 percent of the market some years in the late 60s. Credited with putting Brazilians behind wheels, it wore many shoes in this country and well cared examples can still be seen puttering around, while badly kept ones are yet a daily eyesore.

Runner-Up: Fiat Uno/Mille, 3.2 million and counting

Like the Kombi, it was killed by Fiat’s unwillingness to bestow on it compliance to the new safety regulations mandating airbags and ABS. I contend that it was the true responsible for motorizing Brazil, as its life spanned the decades in which the massification of the car became a reality in Brazil. Launched in 1984, it lasted until last year (in original shape though its successor was launched in 2010 and continues selling briskly) and similarly to its more prestigious brother Palio, fathered a large family. It was always a fun car to drive, roomy, and was capable of attracting people from all walks of life. The building block upon which Fiat built its dominance of the Brazilian market.

Champion: Volkswagen Gol, 6.1 million and counting

Launched in 1980, at first it faltered with undersized engines and low tech. Grudgingly, VW started giving the car what Brazilians wanted and it has been the most sold car in Brazil for almost 30 years. Considered by some the most Brazilian of cars as it has always been developed here, it has gone through 3 generations and many facelifts. 1 million are said to have been exported and it has managed to take the sales crown in some of our neighbors, such as Argentina. It benefits from Volkswagen’s stellar reputation in Brazil. To some here, it’s the only real car. Even if our per capita income doubled in the next couple of years, you can rest assured that the small, compact car, will always find a warm welcome in Brazilians’ hearts.

Marcelo de Vasconcellos
Marcelo de Vasconcellos

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  • Luvmyv8 Luvmyv8 on Jan 29, 2014

    "It benefits from Volkswagen’s stellar reputation in Brazil." Wait, what? I kid, I kid. A few years ago when I was looking for a car, I was very tempted by the then new Jetta GLI when they put the independent rear suspension back into the current model Jetta. It was everything I liked, namely a 4 door sedan, manual transmission, good performance and not too "in your face".... something like a Q ship. However, here in the United States, VW has a somewhat toxic reputation as far as quality and reliability goes, or even customer service. That's what scared me off, plus ridiculous parts pricing and it only having 200 hp; even the most plain Jane Camry almost has as much. It's too bad really.

  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Jan 29, 2014

    Hard to believe Chrysler sold their smallest car, the Valiant in Brazil in the 1960s, a monster car compared to the compacts of today. I wonder who bought them?

    • Marcelo de Vasconcellos Marcelo de Vasconcellos on Apr 06, 2014

      I don't know if the Valiant was sold here. We remember Chryslers from the 70s. In the 60s, when they got into Brazil, they did so by buying Simca. They then sold Simca cars for a number of years. I think there was a kind of transitional car before the Dart was sold here. I think maybe you're thinking Dart? The Dart and LeBaron basically sold to rich people. Chrysler's attemot to sell to middle class was the Polara, which I think was based on a British Hillman. The first version was a disaster and killed the car in the market. By the time the second Polara rolled around, it didn't sell very well as the market was small and the reputation was irrecoverably tarnished. Not a bad car though. By that time, Chrysler was facing trouble in America, its big cars were not selling because of the oil crisis, and Lee Iaccoca's "bailout" came with strings attached. In equal parts due to poor sales, in part due to those strings (that forced Chrysler to sell off their foreign plants, brands) the company abandoned Brazil for the first time (they were to do so again in the 90s under Mercedes "stewardship"). That led to an interesting historical footnote. As VW bought Chrysler's factory in Brazil, they sold for a while (I think a year), Chrysler or Dodge Darts with made by VW plaques. It's probably the only case in the world were Chrysler cars were built and sold by VW.

  • TheEndlessEnigma I've owned a VW in the past and learned my lesson. Any kind of repair was absurdly expensive which I understand is typical of VW nowadays.
  • TheEndlessEnigma Interesting how Stellantis (and can we take a moment to acknowledge how piss-poor a company name this is - it invokes....what....MBA marketeers failing at their job) is pursuing cuts to reduce costs instead of, oh I don't know, designing-building-marketing vehicles people *WANT* to buy? What has Stella done with what was Chrysler? Suck off the cash flow generated by Chrysler brands, essentially kill the Chrysler brand by cancelling successful models, eliminate any market advantage Dodge had by killing successful models (G Caravan was the #1 minivan until it was killed, Charger & Challenger *were* profitable, etc,) and progressively and continually neuter Jeep all this while ignoring component and build quality. What's done in return? Push Fiat as the new and exciting brand then watch as it fails in North America (did you know ONLY 603 Fiats were sold in the US in 2023). All new Stellantis releases in North America are Euro designs......that then fail in North America because they are not design for our market. The Stellanis solution? Fire Fred, Hank, and Jim and replace them with Apu, Jose and Bernardo. Yup, that will work.
  • 3-On-The-Tree To say your people are total monsters is an unfair statement. You can judge the Japanese government but to say the citizens are culpable or responsible is wrong. That’s like saying every Caucasian person in the U.S is responsible for slavery or the civil rights era of violence and discrimination against African Americans and are benefiting from it. That’s 79 years ago, the average Japanese citizen born during WWII has nothing to do with what happened. Even my Japanese grandmother who was living in Yokohama whose home was firebombed was just trying to survive with 3 kids and a husband fighting in the war. Just like every war the citizens suffer, I saw it in Iraq. You can’t judge the people from the misdeeds of their government, my mom was born after the war, you really think she is responsible for what happened?
  • Irvingklaws Was a must have for my wife's new car. After years of windshield mounts, trying to keep the sun off the phone, wires running across the dash, etc...it's been a welcome upgrade. Don't have it in my current (old) car, just a stock stereo with the aforementioned windshield phone mount and wires...which is fine enough for me. But if I upgrade the radio with an aftermarket unit, the first thing I'm looking for, after separate volume and tuning KNOBS, is Carplay. Note, I've yet to find an aftermarket head unit meeting these basic qualifications. The infotainment in my '17 GTI had both of these and was near perfect, I'd be happy with that unit in any car.
  • Haze3 Near must have... car guy make car, software guy make software THAT I CAN USE EVERYWHERE and not just on some specific brand of truck/car/suv.