The world’s best-selling cars

We’re very familiar with the top selling models in the UK, but what about the global car market? Here are the world’s best-selling cars...

As usual, the UK car market has been hotly contested of late, with cars such as the Vauxhall Corsa, Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Golf all battling for top spot. However, a look at the global car market paints a very different picture, with the highest rankings occupied by cars that tend not to succeed on the UK stage and some that aren’t even on sale here. Using data compiled by Car Industry Analysis, we’ve taken a look at the world’s best selling cars of 2020, to provide a glimpse of what the rest of the world’s motorists are buying.

The rising popularity of SUVs is evident in the global car sales figures - the mid-sized SUV segment was the most popular in 2020, with almost 7.4 million sold. The class was headed by the Toyota RAV4 at over one million sales, beating out rivals such as the Honda CR-V and Nissan X-Trail

Overall sales of premium mid-sized SUV offerings, such as the Mercedes GLC and BMW X3, were bolstered heavily by the Chinese market, which received almost half this segment’s volume. The country saw an 18 per cent increase in premium mid-sized SUV sales over the last year.

China has also become a major player in the pick-up truck market, although this time through its domestic manufacturers - the Great Wall Cannon saw a significant 39 per cent increase in volume, with over 200,000 sold. 

As expected, large estate cars have been hit hardest by the popularity of SUVs, with just 138,000 sold in 2020. More worryingly, this is a 31 per cent decrease from 2019. 2020’s best selling model, the Mercedes E-Class Estate, saw a 32 per cent drop in sales, which doesn’t bode well for the future of the segment.

On the whole, almost every segment saw a decrease in sales volume year-on-year, which is partly a result of the global semiconductor shortage and national COVID-19 lockdowns. Compact hatchbacks took a 23 per cent sales hit, small saloons were down by 29 per cent and mid-sized coupe’s saw a 37 per cent drop. 

Just three of 2020’s 10 most popular cars saw a year-on-year sales increase, too. Historically, Japan’s major brands - Honda, Nissan and Toyota - dominate the global market, and last year was no exception. These Japanese marques occupy an impressive eight spaces in the top ten, with pickup trucks from Ford and Chevrolet also wedging themselves into the high rankings.

The top 10 best-selling cars in the world

1. Toyota Corolla: 1,150,000 sales

The Toyota Corolla was the world’s best-selling car in 2019, and the dependable Japanese saloon continued to occupy the top spot with over 1.1 million sales in 2020. Sales dropped by eight per cent year-on-year, but the Corolla maintained its hold over the global car market, fending off a number of SUVs nipping at its heels. Much of this success is due to the car’s popularity in the US, despite the nation’s waning interest in saloons. 

2. Toyota RAV4: 1,070,000 sales

Another Toyota takes runner-up spot in worldwide sales - the RAV4 SUV. Thanks to the rise of mid-sized SUVs, the RAV4 sees a healthy 10 per cent increase in sales year-on-year, and closes the gap to the Corolla with just under 1.1 million sales. Low running costs, a smooth ride and bold styling contribute to its success, with a new plug-in hybrid option broadening the RAV4’s appeal.

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3. Honda CR-V: 885,000 sales

The RAV4 is followed by another Japanese SUV, with the Honda CR-V having sold 885,000 units in 2020. Like the RAV4, the CR-V slots into the large family SUV class - the world’s most popular segment - where it takes 12 per cent of total market share. The CR-V is well built, practical and well-equipped, although poor fuel economy holds it back.

4. Nissan Sentra: 705,000 sales

The Nissan Sentra isn’t available in the UK, but it excels in the US market as the brand’s compact saloon offering. It occupies the same segment as the top-selling Corolla, where it made up 705,000 units of a 5.1 million sales total. The Sentra saw a 3 per cent boost in sales over the previous year, despite a 14 per cent drop in compact saloon sales overall. 

5. Toyota Camry: 635,000 sales

The Toyota Camry rounds off an all-Japanese top five, taking 635,000 sales. The Camry is the Corolla’s larger saloon relative, and takes 20 per cent of market share in the D-segment class. Like the Corolla, the Camry is very popular with US customers, thanks to its generous interior space and strong reliability.

6. Ford F-150: 620,000 sales

Having spent many years near the top, the Ford F-150 remains one of the world’s best selling cars. In 2020 it slipped to 6th place from 4th place last year, with Ford selling 620,000 units. Unsurprisingly, the F-150 is extremely successful in the US market - it took the crown of America’s best-selling vehicle for the 40th year running in 2020, thanks to its blend of practicality, comfort and affordability.

7. Honda Civic: 560,000 sales

The Honda Civic competes in a class dominated by the aforementioned Toyota Corolla and Nissan Sentra, and saw a sizeable 17 per cent decrease in sales last year. Nevertheless, Honda sold 560,000 units, allowing it to comfortably enter the top 10. Controversial styling may have held it back in the UK, but the Civic’s punchy engines and practicality proved popular with motorists worldwide. 

8. Honda HR-V: 560,000 sales

The HR-V is Honda’s third entry in this list, as part of the compact SUV class. The segment was one of last year’s better performers, with an overall sales decrease of just one per cent. Sales of the HR-V took an 11 per cent hit, however, as buyers await the launch of the all-new, hybrid-powered model this year. Despite a dated infotainment system, the current HR-V does at least offer good value and plenty of space.

9. Chevrolet Silverado: 500,000 sales

The Chevrolet Silverado is one of two American pick-up trucks that make it into 2020’s top 10. The Silverado has long trailed the Ford F-150 in sheer sales volume, but at 500,000 units sold, it matches its 2019 sales figures, where the F-150 saw a decline. Like the Ford, the Chevrolet majors on value, size and toughness, making it a favourite among American buyers.

10. Honda Accord: 500,000 sales

The Honda Accord was axed from the UK market in 2015, but that hasn’t stunted its success on the global stage. With 500,000 sales last year it comes second to the Toyota Camry in the large saloon class, and offers distinctive styling and a slick infotainment system. However, as is the case with most of this year’s best sellers,  Accord sales have taken a fair hit year-on-year.

Below are the top 10 best selling cars from 2019…

  1. Toyota Corolla saloon
  2. Toyota RAV4
  3. Honda CR-V
  4. Ford F-150
  5. Nissan Sentra
  6. Toyota Camry
  7. Nissan X-Trail/Rogue
  8. Honda Civic saloon
  9. Honda HR-V
  10. Honda Accord

Do you own one of the world’s best-selling cars? Let us know in the comments section below… 

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