Fewer people bought cars in 2020 than usual, but some of the world's top automakers weathered the pandemic year surprisingly well.
Drivers in the United States, as they have annually for nearly four decades, bought more Ford F-series trucks than any other type of car. Those in countries like Argentina and Australia preferred Toyota pickups, and Swiss drivers typically opted for a mid-sized sedan made by the Czech brand Skoda. That's all according to data from the website BestSellingCarsBlog.com, which analyzed the car brands that topped sales charts in different countries around the world last year.
Toyota topped all other auto brands in 2020 global sales, overtaking Volkswagen to regain the title as the world's best-selling car brand for the first time in five years. Toyota sold more than 9.5 million vehicles in 2020, which was down 11.3% from 2019 — but a less precipitous drop-off than Volkswagen's 15% decline to 9.3 million cars sold in 2020.
Globally, Toyota also sold the most cars in a whopping 44 different countries around the world, according to data compiled from BestSellingCarsBlog.com by the site AutomotiveTouchup. Volkswagen was again second, topping the rankings in 14 countries.
The Toyota truck with global reach
While Toyota's long-popular Corolla sedan (more than 1.1 million cars sold in 2020) and Rav4 compact SUV (995,000 sold) were the world's top two best-selling individual cars in 2020, a surprise Toyota vehicle made its way to the top of the country count this year.
That would be the Toyota Hilux, a mid-sized pickup truck sold in numerous markets around the world. The truck, which is often used in off-road racing competitions like the Dakar Rally in Senegal, starts at roughly $23,500 — and was 2020's best-selling vehicle in 14 countries, including Argentina, Australia, Panama, South Africa and Fiji. The Hilux hasn't been available in the U.S. since the 1990s, when Toyota introduced its Tacoma pickup, but it has a reputation for being practically indestructible (Toyota calls it the "world's toughest pickup").
Another surprise for some American drivers: The Skoda Octavia featured prominently among the world's most popular cars, despite also not being available in the U.S. The family sedan is manufactured by Mladá Boleslav, Czech Republic-based Skoda Auto, a subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group. It's available throughout most of Europe with a base price of nearly $25,000, and was the best-selling 2020 car in six countries, including Austria, the Czech Republic and Switzerland.
All in all, Toyota and Volkswagen dominated the worldwide rankings. The Toyota Corolla was the best-selling car in six different countries, including Ireland, Finland and Taiwan. The Rav4 was the best-selling car in five different countries, including Estonia, Iceland and Ukraine. Drivers in an additional six other countries, including Bahrain and Yemen, preferred Toyota's Land Cruiser SUV.
By comparison, Volkswagen-owned brands were the most popular cars in 14 countries, including Germany (the VW Golf), Norway (Audi's electric E-Tron SUV), and the Netherlands (VW's ID.3 electric hatchback).
Local flavors in larger countries
In many of the world's largest countries, local automakers reigned supreme. Ford's F-Series trucks, including the F-150, topped the North American market, even during the pandemic: Sales dropped more than 12% in the U.S. in 2020, but the trucks still sold better than any other vehicle model in the U.S. and Canada last year.
Now, Ford is relying that longstanding success enter the nascent electric vehicle market at full speed. In May, the Dearborn, Michigan-based company unveiled its all-electric version of the F-150 truck, at a time when many of the world's largest automakers are accelerating toward a future with more electric vehicles on the market.
In Russia, 2020's top-selling car was the Lada Granta, a subcompact car manufactured by Russian company Avtovaz and France's Renault Group. The Lada Granta is a notably affordable car, costing only the equivalent of nearly $7,000. Meanwhile, India's top-selling car was the Maruti Swift, a similarly affordable subcompact hatchback that starts at the equivalent of about $7,800. It's manufactured by an Indian subsidiary of Japan's Suzuki Motor Corp.
Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that Avtovaz has no relation to the Volga sedan, which was manufactured by Russian company GAZ.