What are some of the best-selling cars globally?

CY Foong · Mar 21, 2021 01:00 PM

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The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly put a damper on global car sales. According to data collected from Germany’s VDA, passenger vehicle sales in the largest car markets in the world contracted by 15% last year to 56 million vehicles from 65.5 million in 2019.

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It's the best-selling car of all time, but which country puts it at No. 1?

Still, there can only be one car that represents that country’s best-seller. However, we won’t be filling up this article with one from every country in the world. That would be a pretty long list.

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Instead, we will select 25 countries sorted by their forecasted estimated gross domestic product based on purchasing power parity, or GDP (PPP) for short. We'll put Malaysia too since it is ranked 29th according to the latest data by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

So, let’s begin with Malaysia and then move on to the next 25 countries from the lowest GDP to the highest.

26. Malaysia – Perodua Myvi (66,330 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 529,424 units

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Just like most countries around the world, new car sales in Malaysia went down in 2020. However, the Perodua Myvi remains the King of Malaysian roads that year with 66,330 units sold.

Also read: Perodua aims to sell 240k vehicles in 2021 - Myvi and D55L to lead the charge?

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Our very own Cik Tiva

That being said, with the Perodua Ativa already launched, will we see a new King in 2021? Perodua is also the best-selling brand in Malaysia, capturing 41.6% of the market share in 2020.

Also read: We’ve bought a Perodua Ativa for a long-term review and tear down!

25. Iran – IKCO Samand (107,987 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 816,497 units

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Interestingly, car sales in the Middle Eastern nation grew 8.7% in 2020 compared to 2019 despite the pandemic, according to data released by the Iranian National Bureau of Statistics. The Iranian automotive market mostly consists of very old rebadged cars and that includes the IKCO Samand.

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It's a 33-year-old Peugeot underneath, surely nothing will go wrong

The Samand is produced by IKCO (Iran Khodro) since 2001 and it took over the title of Iranian national car from the Paykan. However, underneath the family sedan is a Peugeot 405, which is still sold in the Islamic Republic as the Peugeot Pars and is the second best-selling car in 2020.

24. Nigeria – Ford Ranger (946 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 7,451 units

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With falling oil prices, 2020 wasn’t a good year for the West African nation which saw its automotive market drop by 36.1%. Though Toyota remained the country’s best-selling automotive brand, it was the Ford Ranger that took the number one position in 2020.

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A Ford dealership in Nigeria

Despite taking the title of Nigeria’s best-selling car for 2020, it wasn’t something for the Blue Oval to celebrate as its sales suffered a 30.3% drop compared to the year before.

23. Vietnam – Toyota Vios (30,250 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 384,934 units

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Just like Iran, Vietnam experienced a gain in vehicle sales in 2020 probably due to the country’s preparedness against the pandemic. As a result, vehicle sales saw an 8% growth compared to 2019.

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The "Lambang H" that's the choice of Vietnamese buyers

Meanwhile, the Toyota Vios is Vietnam’s best-selling car in 2020 with 30,250 units sold. But it’s Hyundai that is the best-selling brand, capturing 20.1% market share, an astonishing 1,238.8% increase from the year before!

Also read: Hyundai Accent surpasses City and Vios as Vietnam’s best-selling B-segment sedan in Jan 2021

22. Pakistan – Suzuki Alto (23,480 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 127,939 units

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Throughout most of 2020, Pakistan saw a huge decline in sales up to August when the industry began to see some growth. However, the results still remain negative for the Pakistani car industry with 127,939 vehicles sold, a 33.6% drop compared to 2019.

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I'll celebrate too if someone pulls up in one of these

Surprisingly, the most popular car in Pakistan is a Kei car. Yup, the Suzuki Alto is sold officially by Pak Suzuki, Suzuki’s Pakistani distributor. Pakistan has its own Big Three which consists of Pak Suzuki, Toyota IMC, and Honda Atlas and these three often rotate their best-selling positions just like Manchester United, Liverpool, and Chelsea in the Premier League.

21. Thailand – Isuzu D-Max (160,330 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 771,141 units

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Pick-up trucks hold nearly half of the total vehicle sales in the Kingdom in 2020. So, it is not surprising to see a pick-up truck taking the best-selling vehicle spot there.

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Indeed, it isn’t the Toyota Hilux that took the number one spot but rather, the Isuzu D-Max. Even with a minor update, Thais still generally preferred the Isuzu over the Toyota. Kudos to Isuzu for retaking Toyota’s throne which has been held for the last two years in 2018 and 2019.

Also read: Move over, Hilux! Isuzu D-Max is Thailand’s most popular pick-up in 2020!

20. Poland – Skoda Octavia (18,670 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 428,300 units

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Poland also saw a drop in vehicle sales in 2020 with 428,300 units, a 23% decrease compared to 2019. The Skoda Octavia took the best-selling mantle for the third consecutive year.

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Surprisingly, the most popular brand there is Toyota which sold 61,300 units (14.3% market share) in 2020. The Toyota Corolla and Yaris are also the second and third most popular cars respectively in Poland that year.

19. Egypt – Chevrolet T-Series (20,710 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 227,117 units

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Due to the country’s new free trade agreement that allowed tax-free purchases of new cars, Egypt saw positive growth in vehicle sales in 2020. As a result, 227,117 units were sold, showing a growth of 32.6% compared to 2019.

Given Egypt’s rough roads, it’s no wonder that the best-selling vehicle in the Northern African nation is a pick-up truck. Despite the bowtie badge, the Chevrolet T-Series is actually a rebadged previous-gen Isuzu D-Max and it has no relations with the Bollywood YouTube channel. It is also called the Dababah by fans.

18. Australia – Toyota Hilux (45,176 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 916,968 units

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In 2019, Aussies spent AUD 26 billion on overseas travel. With international travel restrictions in place, many Australians started to spend some of their money on a brand-new ride with 916,968 new cars sold in 2020.

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Their favourite car for riding in the outback is the Toyota Hilux and in fact, seven of the top 10 best-selling cars Down Under last year were either SUVs or pick-up trucks (or to put it more colloquially, utes).

17. Saudi Arabia – Hyundai Elantra (26,853 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 469,593 units

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Car sales in the oil-rich Middle East country were initially positive in the first quarter of 2020 but that all changed when the virus struck. In the end, 469,593 units of new vehicles were sold in 2020, a decline of 13.4% compared to 2019.

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Toyota might be the most preferred brand in the Kingdom but it’s the Hyundai Elantra that took the position of the country’s best-selling car of 2020. Following not far behind in second place with 24,783 units is the Toyota Camry, a car more often seen in those Arabic drifting or Hajwalah videos.

16. Spain – Dacia Sandero (24,040 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 851,211 units

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Good news! The Dacia Sandero has successfully ended the Seat Leon’s six-year reign as Spain’s best-selling car with 24,040 units sold. This also marked the first time in 12 years that a model from the Spanish automaker isn’t a best-seller.

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The Seat Leon, a Golf with a bit more salsa

Still, the Spanish-arm of Volkswagen remained the country’s preferred brand. In fact, Volkswagen was also the second-best-selling brand in the nation last year, overtaking Peugeot.

15. Canada – Ford F-Series (128,649 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 1.54 million units

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Though the total number sounded like a lot, it was Canada’s lowest figure since 2009 when 1.46 million units of new vehicles were sold. Still, ‘20’s figures are higher than ‘09, so things aren’t too bleak for the Great White North.

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Ford remains the favourite brand among Canadians for the 12th consecutive year with 232,198 brand-new Blue Ovals sold in 2020. 55% of those sales were the Ford F-Series trucks, the Ranger’s beefier and bigger brother.

14. South Korea – Hyundai Grandeur (145,463 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 1.87 million units

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South Korea might be smaller in size than Canada, but the country not only sold more than the Land of the Maple Leaf, it set a brand-new record even during the pandemic. 2020’s sales were the highest since 2002.

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Hyundai is the best-selling brand in Korea and three of its models are in the Top 3. The Hyundai Grandeur is the most popular car in 2020, followed by the Hyundai Porter and Hyundai Avante. The latter is sold in Malaysia as the Elantra.

Also read: Korea’s best-selling car is not the Hyundai Sonata, but something rarely exported

13. Turkey – Fiat Egea (90,630 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 772,788 units

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Turkey is one of the few European countries that saw positive growth in 2020, a 61.3% jump from 2019.

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Also available as a hatchback, station wagon, and jacked-up crossover

The most popular car in Turkey last year was the Fiat Egea or to put it more correctly, the “ÆGEA”. The Egea is a C-segment car that is jointly developed between Fiat and Tofaş, a Turkish automobile manufacturer. It is sold in other countries as the Fiat Tipo and the Dodge Neon in Mexico.

12. Italy – Fiat Panda (110,470 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 1.39 million units

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It’s no surprise that Fiat would be a best-seller in its home country of Italy and the Fiat Panda has been the country’s best-selling car for the ninth straight year in 2020.

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Hatchbacks or at least little crossovers have been popular among Italians. The rest of the top five included the Lancia Ypsilon, Fiat 500X, Renault Clio, and Fiat 500.

11. Mexico – Nissan Versa (68,010 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 949,353 units

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The Mexican economy is the second-largest in Latin America behind Brazil but it suffered one of the lowest vehicle sales in nearly a decade with under a million cars sold in 2020.

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Mexico is also where Nissan reigns supreme and 2020 is no exception with the brand maintaining its position as the best-selling brand. The Nissan Versa, which is also called the Almera here, is the best-selling car in Mexico, followed by the Nissan NP300, aka the Navara.

10. France – Peugeot 208 (92,800 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 1.65 million units

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Although car sales in France reached their lowest figures since 1975 (1.48 million units), the big winners of the year are hybrid and electric vehicles which saw their figures rise thanks to initiatives by the European Union (EU) and the French government.

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The French also has a new face for its best-selling car, the Peugeot 208 which took over the throne from the Renault Clio. It’s double joy for the French lion as the 2008 ended the year on the podium as the third best-selling car in France.

Also read: Can Peugeot’s new logo and distributor revive the brand in Malaysia?

9. United Kingdom – Ford Fiesta (49,170 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 1.63 million units

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It’s also bleak in Blighty for car sales in 2020 as it reached the lowest level in almost 30 years. Following the decision on banning sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, demand for new cars suffered.

Also read: UK brings forward petrol and diesel cars ban from 2035 to 2030

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The UK’s best-seller in 2020 was the Ford Fiesta, a favourite among Brits for the past 12 consecutive years. Surprisingly, the Ford hatchback only ranked #1 in January and August. Meanwhile, its arch-rival, the Vauxhall Corsa topped the charts more times than the Fiesta but could only manage second overall.

8. Brazil – Chevrolet Onix (135,350 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 1.95 million

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Traditionally, Volkswagen is more well-known among Brazilians but in recent years, it is the American Bowtie that is highly sought after in South America’s largest country. Chevrolet was Brazil’s most-popular brand in 2020, holding a 17.4% market share.

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The most popular car in Brazil is the Chevrolet Onix, a car that competes against the Honda City in some markets. However, for the first time in 5 years, the Onix did not rank #1 every month of the year. Its streak was interrupted by the Volkswagen T-Cross in July.

7. Indonesia – Honda Brio (40,880 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 532,027 units

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Car sales in Indonesia were severely affected in 2020 when it recorded a 48.53% drop to 532,027 units compared to 1.03 million units in 2019.

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The year also saw a new King as the Toyota Avanza’s amazing run of 14 years at the top ended with the Honda Brio being the Indo best-seller. This also marked the first time in over 40 years that a Toyota model failed to be on top of the Indonesian charts, a feat that began with the Toyota Kijang in 1978.

6. Russia – Lada Granta (126,110 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 1.6 million units

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Today’s Lada is far from the outdated Soviet Union era that we often associate with old Russian cars. In fact, it is currently under the subsidiary of Groupe Renault which means they have some relation with a Dacia.

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Russia’s best-selling car in 2020 was the Lada Granta, which shares the same category as the Proton Saga here. It offers affordability for the masses and has been the country’s best-seller for the past 5 years.

5. Germany – Volkswagen Golf (136,324 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 2.92 million units

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Ever since it was introduced in 1974, the Volkswagen Golf has been topping the German best-sellers list. Well, almost. It was interrupted by the Mercedes-Benz W123 in 1980.

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Still, topping the chart 40 years in a row must be an amazing accomplishment even if sales are dropping for the fifth straight year. Volkswagen also maintained its position as Germany’s best-selling brand with an 18% market share.

4. Japan – Honda N-Box (195,984 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 4.6 million units

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Huge numbers aside, Japan wasn’t spared from a decline in car sales in 2020 with an 11.5% drop compared to 2019.

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Japan has two sales rankings, one for regular cars and the other for Kei cars. However, if we’re talking overall sales, it’s the Honda N-Box that takes Japan’s best-selling crown while the TNGA-B Toyota Yaris topped the charts for regular car sales (151,766 units).

Also read: 2020's top 10 most popular cars in Japan, Toyota Alphard is No.5

3. India – Suzuki Swift (160,760 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 2.43 million units

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The subcontinent saw zero sales in April due to the country’s strict lockdown measures but slowly rebounded from then thanks to a slew of new model launches such as the Kia Stonic and Toyota Urban Cruiser.

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But sitting at the top last year is the Suzuki Swift which is sold under India’s Maruti Suzuki marque. The S badge has been a dominating force in India, capturing a 50.6% market share in the subcontinent.

2. United States – Ford F-Series (787,422 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 14.67 million units

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If it ain’t big, it ain’t American. So goes to stereotype but half of the top ten best-selling cars in the States last year were full-size pick-up trucks.

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The American Big 3’s very own big boys fill the top 3 with a total of 1.9 million of sales between them. However, it was the Ford F-Series that dominated sales with 787,422 units – both the Chevrolet Silverado and Ram Pickup sold less than 600,000 units each.

1. China – Nissan Sylphy (542,720 units)
Total car sales in 2020 – 25.3 million units

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The world’s biggest auto market received a new champ in 2020. Ranking first ten times last year, the Nissan Sylphy successfully took over the top position from the Volkswagen Lavida for the first time.

Also read: Ignored in our region, the 2019 Nissan Sylphy is China’s No.1 selling car, why so?

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Despite the numerous Chinese brands that we have reported on this website, the best-selling brand in the China is Volkswagen which maintained its position last year in spite of a 15.6% loss in overall sales.

Also read: Haval H6, China's No.1 selling SUV is confirmed for Malaysia. Should the X70 be worried?

Those are the best-selling cars in 2020 across 26 countries. With some of these countries opening slowly opening up their markets, will we see a gain or another year of losses in 2021?

CY Foong

Writer

Traded advertising for a career that fits his passion for cars. Enjoys spotting cars during his free time and has a soft spot for Japanese Kei cars but drives a thirsty manual sedan.

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