The Best Selling American Cars Of All Time
This thanksgiving we are giving thanks to American cars, more specifically the best selling US cars of all time. Think of vehicles from across the pond and you immediately think of legendary makes and models such as the Chevrolet Corvette, the Jeep Cherokee, perhaps the Ford Ranger or Dodge Charger. As big selling as those models are they don’t quite make it to the top 10. Here is our rundown of the biggest selling American models of all time with some surprising additions and some even more surprising omissions.
Ford Explorer, 8.94 million sold
The Ford Explorer was launched as a replacement for the iconic Bronco and despite only being on sale since 1991 takes the number 10 spot in the all-time list. Clever product placement saw it as the official tour guide vehicle for Jurassic Park and its ability to fend of an angry Tyrannosaurus Rex whilst looking the part in a branded wrap meant it won the hearts of millions of motorists. The Explorer is now in its sixth generation and it has firmly stated its claim as the best-selling American SUV thanks to being well equipped, spacious, comfortable and reliable. With almost 9 million sold in little over 30 years, the Explorer continues to go from strength to strength.
Oldsmobile 88, 9.65 million sold
Oldsmobile isn’t really a familiar name outside of the United States, however that didn’t stop them selling over 9 and a half million of the 88 during its lifetime. At one point the most profitable car in the Oldsmobile line-up, the 88 was considered by some as the first muscle car thanks to the performance from its advanced V8 engine and relatively light weight. In its early days it saw great success as a NASCAR racing car and its popularity and evolving design and styling saw a 50-year production run and 10 generations from 1949 to 1999. Despite the Oldsmobile name not being around anymore, the success of the ‘Golden Rocket’ will go down in American motoring history for many years to come.
Ford Mustang, 10.2 million sold
A name that surely had to make the top 10, the iconic Ford Mustang. One of the rare cars that have remained in continuous production since they were launched, the Mustang has been flying the Ford flag since 1964 and shows no sign of going anywhere any time soon. Thanks to its stunning lines, its V8 engines and the fact that costs were kept low, the Mustang sold 22,000 units on its first day alone, with 400,000 sold in its first year. It was, and still is, a sales phenomenon and comfortably outsold its rivals year after year becoming the definitive American muscle car. Now entering its 7th generation, the Mustang name is still as legendary today as it ever was, even with the addition of an all-electric SUV Mach-E variant with styling heavily inspired by the iconic coupe.
Chevrolet Malibu, 11.3 million sold
The Chevrolet Malibu originally was the flagship variant of the popular Chevelle model with more lavish interiors, more luxurious finishes and upgraded options. Models such as the Malibu SS two-door sports coupe were a huge hit with muscle car fans and the model went from strength to strength. By 1997 and the fifth generation, after a hiatus of 14 years for the model name, the car had been transformed to a front wheel drive sedan, how it has remained ever since. The name may live on but the current ninth generation is a far cry from the stylish rear drive convertible models from the 1960’s, yet sales figures remain strong and the Malibu name is now responsible for over 11 million units.
Oldsmobile Cutlass, 11.9 million sold
Another model from the now extinct American brand Oldsmobile, and at one point the biggest selling car in the United States. Launched in 1961, the Cutlass started as an entry level model yet grew into a complete sub-brand thanks to its sales success with distinct styling and luxurious features. By 1976 it was the most popular car in America, with sales figures peaking in 1977 with over 630,000 units sold that year alone. The name survived right up until 1999 where it was launched as a mechanically identical yet slightly upscale version of the aforementioned Chevrolet Malibu in sedan body style. Almost 12 million Cutlass’ were sold in 38 years of production, a staggering number for a model with a shorter lifespan than most.
Dodge RAM, 12.1 million sold
The Dodge RAM is one of the most iconic vehicles in American motoring history. Introduced in 1980, just 5 generations of the rugged pick-up truck have been launched in its 43-year production, showing the popularity of each iteration. The RAM has been named ‘Truck of the Year’ no fewer than 8 times, with the current generation collecting the award 3 times, the first truck in history to do so. The RAM brand has become so popular that it is now its own subsidiary, separating from parent company Dodge in 2010. Sales in recent years are stronger than ever, with over 630,000 RAM’s being sold in 2019, its most popular year ever.
Chevrolet Silverado, 14.1 million sold
If the RAM is famous for its rugged dependability, the Silverado is popular for its luxuriousness and wide range of configurations to suit your requirements. Initially introduced in 1975 as the top trim level to the Chevrolet C/K truck, it became its own model in 1998 and has remained a staple of the Chevrolet line up ever since. Unusually for a pick up the Silverado is praised for its on-road handling as well as its off road capability, a sign of its flexibility and crossover with luxury SUV models. Over 12 million Silverado’s have been sold since becoming its own model, a remarkable feat in 25 years of production, with the remaining 2 million coming as the previous flagship of the range. Production has remained around 800,000 units per year for the past decade highlighting the immense popularity of this iconic vehicle.
Ford Model T, 15 million sold
The Ford Model T is perhaps the most iconic vehicle of all time. From 1908 to 1927, over 15 million units were built, in fact by the early 1920’s half the cars in the world were Model T’s, a record unlikely to ever be matched. More than 2 million cars were sold in 1923 alone, with 1.9 million sold the next 2 successive years. It was the most successful mass-produced car and a symbol of a modern America that used efficient fabrication on a dedicated production line to create a low-priced affordable motor for the masses. Such a sales success in fact was the Model T that the sales record stood right up until 1972 when it was eventually surpassed by the Volkswagen Beetle.
Chevrolet Impala, 16.7million sold
After 10 generations and 51 years total production time, the Chevrolet Impala was the brand’s flagship passenger car and has become an icon of the American motoring scene. On sale since 1957, yet with breaks in production from 1985 to 1994 and 1996 to 1999 until production ceased in 2020, the Impala has sold over 16 million units over that time. From its early days as a sports coupe or convertible to its more recent iteration as a sedan, the popularity of the Impala together with its longevity means it appears at number 2 on the biggest selling American cars of all-time. Over the years, the Impala has brought one of the most legendary muscle cars in the form of the SS, broken annual sales records with more than 1 million units sold within the year and become an icon for song writers from the Beach Boys to Rap artists.
Ford F-Series Pickup, over 40 million sold
When it comes to sales figures, nothing comes anywhere close to the F-Series pickup truck. Ford have sold over 40 million vehicles since 1948, more than 2.5 times its nearest competitor, and is currently producing its 14th generation of F-Series. Mostly on sale exclusively in the United States, the Ford F-Series still manages to consistently sell 900,000 units annually, that’s almost 2,500 a day, over 100 trucks an hour, every hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If the number of trucks sold per year were parked bumper-to-bumper, the line would stretch over 4,000 miles, that’s from our headquarters in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire to the Pakistan border with India, or to Northern Kenya, or coincidentally one of the 4 plants where the vehicle is made in Louisville, Kentucky.
The production volume alone is staggering, but to keep up those numbers year in year out is an incredible achievement. The F-Series has been America’s best-selling truck for 46 consecutive years and the best-selling vehicle for 41 years in a row. If it was a standalone brand the sales of the trucks would generate more money than every major US sports league combined, which is $17billion more than Tesla’s sales figures combined. It is more than McDonald’s makes in the US and more than Starbucks generates globally, even more money than sportswear giant Nike makes in a year.
From the iconic first- and second-generation step-side pickups to the fire-breathing ‘Raptor’ models of recent times, there really is something for everyone and for every environment with the dependable Ford. With the introduction of the all-electric F150 Lightning, the F-Series looks set to continue sales records for many years to come.
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