As the auto industry continues to struggle worldwide, it’s encouraging to note that car makers have hit more than their share of homeruns over the years. Here is a list of the top-selling cars (and trucks) of all time as compiled by Motor Trend magazine:
When introduced in 1958, the Impala was marketed as a high-end luxury car the middle-class car buyer could afford. Distinguished by its three pairs of taillights (most cars have only two), the Impala was originally designed as a very sporty two-door coupe, but has since evolved into a more mainstream four-door sedan. The Impala’s 1964 sales of 1,074,925 units stands as the all-time one-year automobile sales record, one that will probably never be beaten.
The car that basically “saved” Volkswagen when sales for its trademark Beetle plummeted in the late 1960s, the Passat is a mid-sized family car that was the company’s first venture in modern front-wheel drive as well as its first vehicle with a water-cooled engine. Developed partly from the Audi 80/Fox, the car has been marketed under various names, including Dasher, Santana, Quantum, Magotan, Corsar and Carat.
Sold in more world markets than any other automobile, the Accord dominated the market for Japanese cars sold in the U.S. between 1982 and 1997. It was also the first Japanese car built in the United States (1982), and is currently being produced for the growing Chinese market through a joint-venture headquartered in Guangzhou. The Accord has long been famous for its reliability, and to many consumers has come to symbolize the quality and efficiency of Japanese automobile manufacturing.
Although little more than a quaint museum piece to many modern-day car enthusiasts, the Model T was unquestionably the most important and influential car of the 20th century. The first car to be mass-produced using the assembly line system, it was also the first automobile to be affordable to most middle-class Americans. The car that “put America on wheels,” its unparalleled success accelerated the demand for paved roads and highways that ultimately connected every city and town in North America.
The auto that, to many people, has come to symbolize the term “economy car,” the Honda Civic has been a top-seller for more than 35 years thanks to its powerful combination of high quality, low price, comfort and fuel efficiency. With a transverse-mounted engine and front wheel drive, the Civic has always offered above-average interior room for its relatively small size. In June 2008, with gas prices skyrocketing, the Civic pushed past the venerable Ford F-Series to become the best-selling vehicle in the United States.
5) Ford Escort (U.K.)
Produced by the company’s U.K. division, the Escort was Ford’s first “world car.” A sub-compact designed to accommodate the needs of gas-starved Brits and Continental Europeans, the sporty, affordable Escort became Britain’s best-selling car of the 1960s, with sales similarly robust in other foreign markets. With Japanese imports beginning to seriously impact American auto sales in the 1970s, Ford brought its Escort to the U.S.A. in 1981, where production continued until 2002.
4) Volkswagen Beetle (Germany)
Est. Sales: 2.3 million units
Conceived as a “People’s Car” by Ferdinand Porsche in 1931, the Volkswagen “Kafer” (“Beetle”) became a reality thanks to aggressive funding by Hitler’s Third Reich. Featuring a rear-mounted air-cooled engine, the car gained popularity throughout Europe during the post-War(does this need to be capitalized?) years thanks to a level of power, performance, comfort and durability unmatched by competing French and British compacts. Introduced to the U.S. market in the early 1960s, the VW “Bug” became synonymous with imported cars during this period, but initial consumer resistance was tempered by an extremely creative and effective marketing campaign. The Beetle continues to hold the record for the longest-running body type of all time.
The first successful replacement for its best-selling—but obsolete—Beetle, Volkswagen’s Golf initially came as a three-door hatchback, although five-door hatch versions ultimately joined the model’s line. First sold as the “Rabbit” in U.S. markets, the Golf has been a worldwide mainstay thanks to its above-average engineering, below-average price and reputation for dependability.
The only truck on our list, the F-Series is Ford Motor Co.’s full-sized pick-ups, the most popular of which is the F-150. Having gone through 12 generations, the F-Series was the best-selling vehicle in the United States for 23 years and the best-selling truck for 31 years. It’s said that this single vehicle was, for many years, responsible for half of all of Ford’s profits.
The best-selling car of all-time, the Corolla offers a combination of style, price, performance and reliability that makes it popular worldwide. Manufactured in 16 different countries, the Corolla sells at a rate of one every 40 seconds. The car has gone through 10 major design changes, yet it remains the epitome of sub-compact style and engineering for tens of millions of customers across the globe.
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