By on January 28, 2014


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.


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21 Comments on “Dispatches do Brasil: Brazil’s Top 10 Best-Selling Cars Of All-Time...”

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    “Some Fusca sales facts are astonishing, for example, it held over 65 percent of the market some years in the late 60s”

    It had a similar story in Mexico. Its relative cheapness allowed many lower middle class citizens to own one, it was ultra simple to repair, and its ruggedness and air cooled engine made it possible to drive it on unimproved roads.

    One particular Brasilian-designed VW vehicle that also sold fairly well in Mexico was the Brasilia. Although not in the numbers of the Beetle.

  • avatar

    VW Gol – outselling Chevy’s top 10 offerings combined. Not far off from all American top 10s combined, either. There is a joke or irony somewhere in there.

    Anyway, it’s always interesting to compare top 10 lists between USA and other large developed countries like Brazil. The lists are very different.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey LeMansteve. There’s a bit of an illusion there. The Uno-Palio could be counted together for instance. Even though they had a lot of different parts, specially were you could see, and Fiat did a good job differentiating them in consumers’ eyes, for most of their trajectory they were virtually undistinguishable underneath. They also spawned large families including commercial vans, pickups, sedans, station wagons, minivans, passenger vans that were closely related to the original hatches. While the Gol also has had variations on the original hatch, they have been less successful than the Uno and Palio families. If you add them all up, I wouldn’t be too surprised if they passed the Gol’s family’s number.

      The same happens with the Corsa, Celta. A Celta nothing of its own mechanically. If you wanted to count them together, it would be even more appropriate than the Uno-Palio.

      It’d be interesting if one of our NAmerican collaborators took it upon himself to research a similar list for the US. Would be fun and there might be some surprises.

      • 0 avatar

        Hey Marcelo, nice post. I’d like to add a different perspective though. Not that I think it matters which car has sold more, but if we count Uno and Palio as one, should’t we also count Gol and Fox, and maybe even the Polo as one as well? I mean, at least in their current generations, they share a lot of components. The fox family would add another 1.3 million units, and the Polo some more.

        I’d aldo argue that although the Palio family, with the exception of the hatchback, has been more successful than Gol’s, the Uno family wasn’t that successful. Its sedan, wagon and pickup versions never sold as well as VW’s. The Palio family did change that.

        • 0 avatar

          Hey Marcos! Great to see another perspective and I agree with you. However, as you well know,if we added the Fox to the Gol there’d be a problem. The Fox had more in commom with the Polo than the Gol. So, for many years, up until the so called Gol G6, Polo-Fox would be one thing, Gol another. So if we went that route, we would’ve have to stop counting the Gol at G5!

          Like you said, this kind of list is more a curiosity than anything else. On a world scale, the Corolla has sold more than Beetle or Model T. But has it? The fact is the modern Corolla has nothing to do with the original one or even the second or third generations. The Beetle or Model T meanwhile were virtually the same all of their lives.

          Now as to Uno family vs Gol family, I think the variations were much more important for Fiat than for VW. Also, Premio, Elba were much more exported than Voyage or Parati. The Gol never had a Fiorino, nor does it now have a Doblo or Idea. That’s why I contend that the Uno family was so important, even if at forst the Parati, Voyage and Saveiro sold more than Elba, Premio or Fiorino pickup. But no way could I say you’re wrong. I just think we have different points of view on the same happenings.

      • 0 avatar

        Challenge accepted.

      • 0 avatar

        It be f series, impala, cutlass, for 3 of them.

  • avatar

    Interesting composition. The Renault / Ford is the biggest surprise, for me.

  • avatar

    The nr2 Fiat Uno surpised me a lot.
    I owned a 1987 Fiat Uno and it was the worst car i´ve ever had.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, it was produced for 20 yrs and having over time become more and more like the Palio, it was always atteended too and developed bit by bit. Plus, due to numbers and length of time mechanics knew what to do with it and what to watch out for. The Brazilian Uno was not exactly like the Italian one, the suspension was always more robust. Plus, I think Brazilians’ expectations are probably lesser and we think it’s normal to maintain a car. What we value is ease of repair and it better be cheap to do so. Factor all of it that together, plus the fact that it was the cheapest car in Brazil for a long period of its life, and you have a success. Here it got a reputation as being the “modern Beetle” for its longevity and its toughness.

  • avatar

    The front of the Palio reminds me a LOT of the first generation Mercury Mariner.

    If I had to guess I’d say the Uno was a Guigiaro design. The Corsa sedan is definitely NOT a Giugiaro design, and is awful looking. Lol.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re right. The Uno is a Gugiaro. As is that Palio by the way. That is the 2nd redesign. The original Palio was ItalDesign, the second in-house Fiat, and that one pictured is a Giugiaro. The most successful one in terms of looks in many people’s opinion. Got to hand it to the great designers, they know what they’re doing.

      • 0 avatar

        I wish the Japanese companies would outsource their styling to them (like the early 90s). I really think they’d be surprised with the sales results after.

        • 0 avatar

          Yep, as others continually gain on them in terms of reliabiliy, they have to start making their cars even more compelling. Design would be one way. Fiat people have told me once again that it’s design that sells cars.

          The Corsa BTW was Opel. That sedan though got its trunk grafted on by GM Brasil and at the time it wasn’t that bad. The proportions were basically right. Not my favorite by a long shot, but blendly inoffensive.

  • avatar

    “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.

  • avatar

    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?

    • 0 avatar

      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.

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