The Continental Divide: The Most Popular Cars by Continent

The Continental Divide: The Most Popular Cars by Continent  
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on 12/09/2006

If there is one obsession that seems to cross all cultural and economic boundaries around the world, it’s the automobile. There isn’t a country on Earth that doesn’t drive them, sell them and love them. But while one car company might be the king of the mountain here, in other parts of the world, they might not even be a player. Let’s take a look at the best selling and most popular cars by continent.

North America – The science of car sales in has been refined to an art in North America. Not only do we rate which cars sell the best, we also do it by class. For instance, in 2004, Canada’s best selling car was the Honda Civic, and it has been since 1998. The Toyota Corolla was the best selling small car in the United States over the same time period (second in Canada). In Mexico, the Nissan Tsuru small sedan is the top seller.

Australia – The top selling car in Australia is the Holden Commodore. Other popular cars on the island continent are the Toyota Corolla, the Toyota Yaris and the Mazda3.

Europe – A recent change at the top in Europe, with the Peugeot 206 taking over the Volkswagen Golf as the most popular car in 2002. Other top sellers in Europe include the Mini. Other sub-compacts are also very popular throughout the European continent since space is so tight in many places. The Ford Focus has been extremely popular in the U.K. since its introduction.

Asia – In Russia, the Ford Focus has also proved to be extremely popular. It ranks #1 among imports for 2003, 2004 and 2005. Ford was the first Western car company to open plants in Russia after the fall of communism. In China, GM recently passed Volkswagen as the top foreign auto company, with sales over 650,000 units in the last year. The Buick Excelle made up over 1/6th of that total in 2005. In India, 2004 saw the rise of the Maruti Alto as the best selling car in the country. Maruti also claims the second spot with their 800, which was, until recently, the most popular car in India for two decades. Coming in third, Tata Motors Indica is also very popular in India. All three cars are compact.

South America – South America is dominated by the Volkswagen Gol, which has been the number one seller in Brazil since the mid-1980’s and tops in Argentina since the mid 1990’s. The super-mini Volkswagen is considered an entry-level car, which makes it extremely popular among young adults and those without a lot of money.

Africa – Africa is truly a diverse continent and that diversity stretches to the kinds of cars driven there. The Australian built Holden Commodore is a best seller there, as is the Volkswagen Golf. Both Toyota and Honda have made serious inroads in Africa, much like Ford and GM. The one universal truth within the African continent, every best selling car is a compact or smaller.

Looking around the world, one truth becomes clear. The only people still driving big cars on a regular basis are Americans. In every other spot on Earth, compacts or subcompacts rule the auto industry. If US automakers want a bigger piece of the international pie, they should stop making SUVs and make more Priuses.

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