20210107

America's "Top 10" Best-selling Car Brands in 2020

None of us have to be reminded of the absolute havoc caused by the COViD-19 pandemic in 2020, taking millions of lives away and collapsing hordes of businesses. Now that the automotive industry has survived the trough and the car-makers are looking forward with cautious optimism, it's time to reconcile the numbers and see who shed the least blood in the year gone by.

As always, it’s the United States of America we’re going to start our analysis with. After a phenomenal run of five consecutive years when the number of new cars and trucks sold topped 17 million units, 2020 was quite a blow. Cumulative sales of 14.5 million units represented a drop of close to 15% compared to 2019. Given the circumstances though, there's not much to read into it. 2020, by all means, was an abnormal year and it would be prudent to wait and watch how the industry fares this year.

Based on the numbers reported, here's America's ‘Top 10’ best-selling brands:


Ford remains America’s favourite brand

  • For a 11th consecutive year, Ford was America’s most popular brand. 
  • With total sales of 1.94 million units, Ford was helped massively by the continuing popularity of the F-Series that’s now been America’s best-selling pick-up for 44 straight years. 
  • Also boosting its numbers were the Explorer and Escape with the former ending 2020 as America’s best-selling midsize SUV. That should be a massive relief for the folks at the helm, given the much-publicized launch troubles the model went through in 2019. 
  • With the Bronco Sport starting off well, the Mustang Mach-E garnering praise from everyone and the Bronco sitting on a pile of orders, 2021 should be a good year for the ‘Blue Oval’. It better be as Toyota and Chevrolet aren't very far away! 
  • Spare a thought for the Fusion and Fiesta that are fading into the sunset as part of the brand’s strategy to exit cars and focus on SUVs and crossovers. The former, especially, will be missed in the United States.


Toyota and Chevrolet close in

  • With 1.84 million cars and trucks sold in 2020, Toyota came in second with just 100,000 units separating it from the top spot. That’s a number that can easily be overhauled with just one very successful new model. With the RAV-4 going all guns blazing, the Camry holding fort amidst an onslaught of crossovers, SUVs and trucks and the Tacoma, Corolla and Highlander pitching in with significant sales of their own, Toyota is sitting pretty. That they are the runaway leaders when it comes to 'hybrids' also helps. 
  • Going into 2021, the folks at Chevrolet would be a happy bunch. Though the 1.74 million units sold in 2020 and the 11% drop over 2019 might indicate otherwise, the new-generation Silverado family - in their first full year in the market - had a successful run and was one of the few nameplates that grew vis-à-vis 2019. Yes, the Silverado (and it’s sibling, the GMC Sierra) posted growth over 2019! Equinox and Traverse did well too with the former leapfrogging popular Japanese sedans like the Civic, Corolla and Accord. 


Nissan falters, Kia put up a strong fight

  • Honda, in fourth is all alone, with Chevrolet far ahead and Nissan dropping off quite significantly behind. CR-V is the brand’s best-seller but unable to mount a challenge to the ever-popular RAV-4. Civic and Accord are the other big-sellers with both experiencing sharp drops as SUVs and crossovers continue to run rings around sedans. 
  • Clinging onto fifth position behind Honda is Nissan. The Japanese brand has been grappling with a myriad of issues and this 33% drop in one of its biggest markets would’ve already set the alarm bells ringing in Japan. Something has to be done, soon. The recent redesign of the Rogue, Nissan’s best-seller, is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately for them, their once-strong sedans are in freefall mode right now! 
  • Not far behind is Jeep, FCA’s crown jewel. After a few years of unprecedented growth when the brand could do no wrong, Jeep saw its sales drop 14% to under 800,000 units. With the exception of Gladiator, the drop was seen across the line-up with everything from the Renegade all the way up to the Grand Cherokee ending up in red. 
  • Ram came in seventh with almost the entire sales coming from the brilliant new Pick-up. While the flagship 1500 TRX has mesmerized truck-lovers with its insane power and torque in a bid to woo the Raptor-loving crowd, the fact that the Ram Pick-up fell behind its arch-rival Chevrolet Silverado within a year of getting ahead would be of great concern to the brand.
  • Hyundai had a better year compared to the other brands in this list, with sales dropping just a shade under 10% compared to the prior year. The Korean brand’s efforts on getting one crossover after another to the market seems to be paying off with the Tucson, Santa Fe, Palisade, Kona and Venue more than making up for the fall in sales of the Elantra, Sonata and Accent sedans. 
  • Subaru’s dream run came to a screeching halt in 2020 with the Japanese brand reporting a 13% decline in sales compared to their all-time high figures achieved in 2019. As always, the Forester and Outback led the charge for Subaru in what has now become the Japanese car-maker’s most important and possibly most profitable market. 
  • Rounding off the Top 10 is Kia, capping a remarkable year in which it saw its sales slip in just lower single digits. Of course, it’s still worse than brands that grew in 2020 – like Mazda, for instance – but those brands don’t sell as much as Kia. Shining bright in Kia’s line-up was the Telluride. The last I heard, the Korean car-maker wasn’t able to produce as many as they could sell. Also helping matters are their stylish new launches like the Sorento and K5.


Mercedes-Benz pips BMW in the luxury race

  • From the very beginning of 2020, Mercedes-Benz has been leading the luxury race from BMW. While the former is yet to report its full year sales, only a very poor showing in the fourth quarter would be able to dislodge Mercedes-Benz from the top. The GLC, GLA and GLE raked in good numbers apparently while the E-Class continue to be a popular choice amongst sedans. 
  • With sales of 278,732 units in 2020, BMW reported a 18% decline compared to the previous year. That resulted in the brand losing its lead from 2019. Within the lineup, the X series of SUVs have been very popular and fast displacing sedans as the mainstay of the brand. 
  • Lexus proved its resilience and reported 275,041 units sold last year, placing it just a few thousand units behind BMW. The RX was the undisputed best-seller for the Japanese brand with the NX and ES sedan also adding considerable numbers.

Now that we've seen the Top 10 best-selling brands in the United States, the list of Top 20 best-selling cars would follow in the next post. 

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