Monday, October 18, 2021
News Trivia: The Best-Selling Cars in America Since 1978

Trivia: The Best-Selling Cars in America Since 1978

The arrival of imports en masse in the 1970s pushed aside the American car options very quickly


  • The 1980s and 1990s were a power struggle between the US and Japan.

  • Despite GM owning the 1970s with more than 500,000 sales, they last hit the top spot 35 years ago.


This isn’t exactly a news story, but the results are extremely interesting. And the image with the cars and the numbers is quite attractive. The best-selling car data, which excludes all trucks and SUVs, starts in 1978 and carries on through last year.

Between 1978 and 1981, the Oldsmobile Cutlass reigned supreme. By 1982, likely because of the oil crisis, the compact Ford Escort took top honours, and probably by a handful of units as the Cutlass came back in 1983. From 1984 to 1988, Chevy and Ford battled it out but in 1989, the American automakers all but fell off the podium’s top step. The back and forth is clear on Visual Capitalist‘s image.

1989 Honda Accord | Photo: Honda

From 1989 to 1991, the Honda Accord owned the #1 position but in 1992, Ford’s massive efforts behind the Taurus, then in its second generation, put it in the top spot. The much-maligned third-generation Taurus, launched in 1996, also marked the last time an American automaker held the title of the best-selling car in America.

Since 1997, no other car, no matter the size or price, has managed to knock the Toyota Camry off its pedestal. So far in 2021, the Camry retains a healthy lead ahead of the Corolla Civic. To put it into perspective, 20,000 more Camrys have been sold than all Lexus vehicles combined in the first six months of 2021.

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Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai

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