Crossovers aren't our overlords... yet.
We try not to have a myopic view of the car world. It’s easy to think the country that you’re based in is the center of the universe, but the world is round and sales are global. At the same time, models don’t make it to every market but, as we’ll see in this list, the cars in the top ten tend to be sold far and wide. There are a few exceptions though, and that’s not all that makes this list marking the first part of the year so fascinating. The numbers we've used here come from the Global Auto Database and from the beginning of the year through May. Something else the numbers show is that the decline in overall automobile sales in 2018 is continuing as a trend. The first quarter of the year showed a decline of 7.4% with 21,009,192 global sales in total. That's 1,554,680 down over the previous year.
There is some predictability, but there’s also some head-scratching information here if we base what we expect on what we see in our own countries.
It’s easy to get caught up in the whole idea of what we see locally with crossovers dominating the market, particularly here in the US where they are king along with trucks. It seems, though, that across the broad spectrum of personal income on a global scale mixed with the practicality of larger vehicles, a humble and small gas-powered car is still a recipe for big success. And now, it's possible to actually get excited by a Corolla.
Some people cry foul at the sales success of the F-Series truck, and the argument is solid. After all, there are various models of F-Series trucks and the Super Duty line is built on a different architecture. If Toyota renamed the Camry as the larger Corolla, Toyota would probably dominate global sales by an even larger stretch. They could even go as far as renaming the RAV4 as the Corolla SUV as well and go bragging like Ford does. However, no matter which way you slice it, the F-Series is at number two on the list despite not having an official presence in most of Europe or Asia, and that's impressive. In 2018, an F-Series truck was sold every 35 seconds on average.
Whether you think of the Civic as Honda’s Corolla or the Corolla as Toyota’s Civic, this was always going to rank highly. What’s interesting is that there's not a crossover in the top three. Honda’s recipe for the Civic as being economical to run, practical to use, available in useful and sporty configurations, and fun to drive secures its place at the top end of the global market.
The best selling crossover worldwide at the moment runs contrary to what we saw here in the United States last year. The Honda CR-V was outsold by both the Toyota RAV4 and the Nissan Rogue in 2018, but for the first quarter of 2019 the CR-V outsold the RAV4 stateside, and both have been outsold by Chevy’s Equinox. The Rogue outsold them all in the US but hasn't made the top 10 for global sales so far this year.
The RAV4 has been around since 1994, and there was an EV version all the way back in 1997 produced for fleets until 2003. The RAV4 also holds the distinction of being the first compact crossover SUV, and that’s something Toyota has built upon over decades now.
The hatchback hasn’t had the success in the United States as it has in the rest of the world. Lots of space, big roads, and cheap gas negate a lot of the benefits of a small yet practical vehicle. The Golf has been available here, but an upmarket hatch doesn’t sell well. As a result it seems, the next generation won't be available in the United States. For the rest of the world, the Golf reigns supreme as the premium hatchback.
It shouldn’t be a surprise Volkswagen also has a compact SUV in the list. Part of the Tiguan’s success is down to the Chinese market where it’s been available since 2009. China is a large part of Volkswagen’s overall market with around 40% of the brand's revenue coming from Asia.
Volkswagen’s baby hatchback is now in its sixth generation and post-dates the Golf by just a year. There have been other body styles, and there’s a sedan version built in Brazil for the South American market named the Virtus. However, Volkswagen has yet to find a business case for selling it in the United States.
The Toyota Camry beats out the Honda Accord in worldwide sales and keeps a mid-size sedan presence in the top 10 world sales list. Now in its eighth generation, Toyota’s decision to go with a much more aggressive and sportier style is paying off. Toyota calls the Camry its second "World Car” after the Corolla, and it’s built in Japan, China, India, Malaysia, Russia, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United States.
Commonly known by English speakers as the Lavida, while being the first car designed by VW’s Chinese branch, it’s clearly a no-frills Passat for the Chinese market. It’s also clearly a big deal for VW as it makes the world sales list despite only being made in China. According to figures available from 2018, VW sold 473,564 units in total last year. It also appears to be on track for the biggest jump in ranking for global sales after ending 2018 in 17th place while all the other cars on this list were in the top 10 overall.