We can learn a great deal from the top 20 best-selling cars from 2019.
While some areas of the market continue to expand, others are contracting and with it some previously big hitters are slipping down the chart. At the very top, the biggest player of all extends its lead and closes in on a motoring milestone.
The list also includes a few names that will be oddities to Western readers, but this only serves to show how dominance in one region can make a car a world leader. We’ve ranked the top 20 best-selling cars in the world in ascending order. The data comes from Global Auto Database that collates information from more than 300 official sources.
20: Hyundai Elantra – 513,813
The Hyundai Elantra, or Avante as it’s called in its home market of South Korea, is a compact saloon that sells very well in China and Russia. It helps the Elantra’s cause in these regions that it is produced in local factories, as well as others in the USA, Taiwan and in Hyundai’s facility at Ulsan in Korea.
In 2019, the Elantra’s sales were down by 15.1% compared to 2018’s as the model reached the end of its product life. A new Elantra is due in 2021 that should see its sales climb back up to stem the drop of 90,000 units between 2018 and 2019.
19: Hyundai Tuscon – 527,238
The Hyundai Tuscon keeps its foothold in the top 20 for 2019 despite sales contracting compared to the previous year. In 2019, sales were down by a hefty 7.2% around the world next to 2018’s numbers. This meant Hyundai sold 40,000 fewer Tuscons despite the SUV market growing in size.
However, Hyundai is not likely to be panicking just yet as the firm is ranked sixth overall in the global brand sales table for 2019 and Hyundai-Kia scored fifth overall for 2019’s group rating with more than 7 million sales in 2019.
18: Suzuki Swift – 539,432
The Suzuki Swift is not a car that springs to mind when thinking of globally big players, yet it is only 14,000 sales shy of the Toyota Yaris in 2019. Much of the Swift’s success is based on its dominance of the large Indian market (now the world’s fourth-largest) where Suzukis are also sold under the Maruti banner.
Suzuki will be relieved to stay inside the top 20 for 2019, however, as the Swift shed 18.1% of sales in 2019 when compared to the number it shifted in 2018. That makes it the biggest percentage drop of any car in the top 20 list.
17: Toyota Yaris – 553,950
If you ever wonder why Toyota is among the largest car makers in the world, the Yaris helps to explain it. This supermini is one of four Toyotas in the top 20 global best-sellers in 2019, and helps counter the fact the Hilux has dropped out of the top 20 for 2019 despite being the top seller in 36 countries.
Also called the Vios in some markets, the Yaris scored an 11.2% increase in sales in 2019 compared to 2018. This added 55,000 sales to its bottom line.
16: Volkswagen Passat – 572,043
It may be good news for some saloons like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry in 2019, but the Volkswagen Passat suffered a 13.5% drop in sales year on year from 2018 to 2019. This equated to 60,000 fewer Passats of all types being sold around the world in 2019.
Not even the large Chinese market could come to the rescue of Volkswagen, where the Passat is sold as the Magotan and these numbers are included in overall global Passat figures.
15: Honda Accord – 595,104
The Honda Accord is now in its 10th generation and, while it may have disappeared from many market’s charts, it’s still a big noise in the USA. Honda’s mid-size saloon sold more than 250,000 units in the US along in 2019 and it’s popular in many other markets.
This accounts for the Accord scoring 15th overall in the list of global best-sellers, helped along by a 11.6% increase in sales in 2019 compared to 2018’s figures.
14: Honda HR-V – 622,154
The Honda HR-V may be one of the less prominent SUVs in many markets, but it racks up the numbers globally to reach 14th overall in 2019. This is despite a fall in sales of 8.2% compared to 2018 that equates to 55,000 fewer HR-Vs supplied in 2019 over the previous year.
This decline in sales for the HR-V is in line with the trend for this model as it ages and new rivals come along to snaffle sales, such as the Toyota RAV4. Honda will hope a mid-2019 update of the HR-V will stem this sales decline in 2020.
13: Volkswagen Golf – 641,322
As an example of how global versus regional sales can differ wildly, the Volkswagen Golf is the prime candidate. Easily the most popular car in Europe, the Golf can only manage 13th in the world. The launch of a new eighth generation Golf certainly helped European sales, but other markets have different tastes where the VW makes less of an impression.
The result of the Golf’s more localised appeal compared to the global attraction of the Toyota Corolla is a sales drop of 12.4% for the VW in 2019 compared to 2018. Some of that is explained by the swap-over from one model generation to the next, but it’s still a big drop for the German maker to take on the chin as it falls out of the top 10 worldwide best sellers list.
12: Chevrolet Silverado– 642,126
Chevrolet’s Silverado may be the third best-selling vehicle in the USA, but its numbers fall some way short of its two main rivals, the Ford F Series and Dodge Ram. The Ford sold almost twice as many in 2019 as the Silverado, which accounts for this staple of the US market only achieving 12th spot globally.
None of this will bother Chevrolet too much as Silverado sales were up 7.2% overall, even if they did suffer a small dip in 2019 in the USA compared to 2018. Its popularity in Canada and Mexico more than compensated to add 43,000 sales to the bottom line in 2019.
11: Toyota Camry – 710,701
The Toyota Camry enjoyed a 5.2% boost in sales by the end of 2019 over those of 2018. That equates to an extra 35,000 Camrys of all types sold globally in 2019, which is a big contribution to Toyota’s overall sales.
Sales of the Camry were boosted by the launch of a new model and its reintroduction to many European countries after an absence of several years. Even so, around half of Camry sales are in the USA, where it remains the best-selling saloon car.
10: Volkswagen Polo – 724,508
The Volkswagen Polo was 2019’s biggest percentage loser out of the top 10 best-sellers, shedding a hefty 14.1% in sales compared to 2018’s numbers. That was enough to see the German supermini fall from eighth spot in 2018 to 10th in 2019.
This fall will be all the harder to swallow for VW off the back of the Polo enjoying a significant sales increase in 2018 compared those of 2017. What went wrong for the Polo in 2019? Not a great deal, but the rise of the compact SUV impacted sales and the Polo’s overall numbers are still reliant on sales of older versions such as the Polo Vivo in South Africa.
9: Nissan Sylphy – 729,218
The Nissan Sylphy is also known as the Sentra in some markets and it’s a car that may be unfamiliar to many. However, its popularity in Asian markets means it’s a global player and slots solidly into the top 10 despite sales in 2019 dropping by 8.6% compared to those in 2018.
That fall in sales might mean the Sylphy was only 5000 sales ahead of the Volkswagen Polo, but a new generation model went on sale in mid-2019 that is set to strengthen 2020’s figures.
8: Dodge Ram – 754,172
In any other context, the Dodge Ram’s 17.6% uplift in sales in 2019 compared to 2018’s would be a reason to cheer from the rooftops for its FCA masters. However, even with this uptick in units sold, the Ram still trails its Ford F Series arch rival by more than 300,000 sales during this 12-month period.
Still, the good news for Dodge is the Ram enjoyed the biggest percentage increase in sales of any vehicle in the global top 10 best-sellers. This was underpinned by the new model Ram that arrived in 2019 and was welcomed by its North American heartland of buyers who account for 99% of customers, just as with the Ford.
7: Nissan X-Trail – 761,081
The Nissan X-Trail remains a very popular SUV choice in many markets, where it’s sold in a variety of different guises that all add to the bottom line of sales. In 2019, this worked out at 13.3% down on the previous year’s number, so Nissan has its work cut out if it wants to hang on to the X-Trail’s top 10 status in 2020.
Some consolation comes for Nissan in the ageing X-Trail being within 10,000 sales of the Volkswagen Tiguan that sits just ahead of the Japanese car in the top 20 of global best-sellers.
6: Volkswagen Tiguan – 770,084
A 4.2% drop in sales of all types of Volkswagen Tiguan around the world in 2019 saw sales fall by 34,000 units over 2018’s performance. This was in line with the lower sales in most European markets and others such as Russia where the Tiguan has traditionally been very strong.
The good news for the Tiguan is it remains Volkswagen’s best-selling single model line, with the Polo 45,000 units behind and the Golf some 130,000 shy of the SUV’s total.
5: Honda Civic – 817,902
Closet rival to the Toyota Corolla in the small hatch segment is the Honda Civic, including in its Breeze form when talking global sales. A small drop in 2019’s sales of 1.9% was registered compared to 2018’s, but the Civic was still a strong performer around the globe and well ahead of the only other car in this class to make the top 20, the Volkswagen Golf in 13th position.
The drop in sales for the Civic came in at 16,000 units in 2019 compared to the previous year. That’s not a huge amount for a company of Honda’s scale, but the Japanese firm will not want to lose any more ground to the seemingly relentless march of the Corolla.
4: Honda CR-V – 823,237
If you ever needed any more evidence of the rise of the SUV, the Honda CR-V is it. Sales in 2019 were up by 12% compared to 2018’s and the CR-V has jumped from seventh position last year to a very solid fourth in 2019.
It’s a measure of the CR-V’s appeal around the world that it sold 50,000 more units than the Volkswagen Tiguan, though the Honda was still 135,000 sales short of the superb performance of the Toyota RAV4. However, 2019’s result proves Honda’s confidence that the CR-V would improve sales in 2019 after its poorer showing in the previous year when the new model replaced the older version.
3: Toyota RAV4 - 961,918
It was so near yet so far for the Toyota RAV4 to reach the one million mark in 2019. It fell short by less than 40,000 units and was less than 110,000 sales shy of usurping the Ford F Series for second spot. Toyota will still be buoyed by sales that were up by 16% in 2019 over those of 2018.
What held the RAV4 back from 2019’s sales topping one million was a delayed launch of the new RAV4 model in the key Chinese market. It’s proved a sales hit in this region, so 2020’s figures should reflect this – assuming sales get back on the horse after the Covid-19 crisis.
2: Ford F Series – 1,070,348
The Ford F Series is the only other vehicle to register more than one million sales in 2019 after the Toyota Corolla. This was despite sales dropping by a modest 1.7% in 2019 compared to 2018. However, Ford will take comfort from the F Series scoring a million-plus sales for the third year in a row. The primary F Series is the F-150, but the range has several larger models such as the F-250 King Ranch, pictured.
More of a worry for Ford will be its reliance on the North American markets of the USA and Canada for 99% of its F Series sales. The crisis-hit vehicle markets in 2020 could jeapordise the F Series’ second place as the Toyota RAV4 is nipping at its heels.
1: Toyota Corolla – 1,482,932
2019 was a good year for the Toyota Corolla as it grew sales over the previous year and confirmed its number one status globally by a considerable margin. Its lead over the Ford F Series extended to more than 400,000 units, helped by the Toyota growing sales and the Ford losing a small percentage during 2019.
A well-received all-new model Corolla with sharper looks and anupmarket interior came fully on stream in 2019, also sold as the Auris in some markets. It also assists the Corolla onward march that it was the best-selling car in China in 2019 and it’s the only car produced on all five continents. With all of this in its favour, the Corolla is set to soon hit 50 million total sales of all types since its launch in 1966, cementing its position as the best-selling car of all-time. Truly a car that put the world on wheels.
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