By the Numbers: Best-Selling Automobiles of All Time

Quick, what’s the best-selling automobile of all time? Everybody loves to debate the merits of lists, but, as they say, the numbers don’t lie and, in this case, the car in the number one slot might come as a surprise. In honor of the 15-Millionth Ford being on display from April 3-9 on the National Mall as part of this year’s Cars at the Capital, we take a look at a few other heavy-hitters and break it down by the numbers.

Until it was surpassed by the Volkswagen Beetle in February of 1972, the humble Ford Model T was the best-selling vehicle of all time. It was the first car to reach a million in production numbers and, by the time it reached 10 million strong, it accounted for half of all the cars in the world. But thanks to the mass-production innovations unleashed by Ford and others, these numbers are barely enough to make a Top Ten All-Time Bestselling Vehicles list (it’s now sitting at a lowly ninth overall). Even the Beetle, once nearly as globally prolific as the Model T, just barely squeaks into the top five (it’s currently number four) with 23.5 million plus having rolled out into the world.

Topping the list at more than 43 million(!) sold worldwide since its introduction in 1966 is the Toyota Corolla. Indeed, the Corolla has been the best-selling car since 1974 when it surpassed the VW Beetle. To be fair, there have been a number of iterations of the Corolla over the years while the Beetle and T remained largely unchanged. That said, it took a mere eight years for the Corolla to outsell the Beetle, a car that first appeared in 1938 (on went on the market in 1947) – a full 34 years before it managed to outpace a feat attained by the T in only 19.

To take things a step further, the global population in 1927 was estimated at around 2 billion, while by 1974 that number had more than doubled. This means that, in 1927, there was at least one Model T for every 133 people. In the whole world. In the end, it’s all just a bunch of numbers and opportunities for endless debate as to the merits of such facts and figures (isn’t that pretty much all the internet is for?). In other words, it might be the best-selling car of all time, but it doesn’t have nearly the same cultural cache as the Beetle or Model T in terms of pure iconic style and historical significance.

Rounding out the Top Five – for those who may be curious about such things – are: the Ford F-series, which was introduced in 1948 and has since sold more than 40 million models; the Volkswagen Golf, introduced in 1974 and since having exceeded 30 million cars sold; and, in something of a surprise appearance, the Lada Riva, a car that first showed its humble head in 1980 in Soviet Russia and currently calls Egypt its home.

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