Ford and Toyota Clash Over 'Best-Selling Vehicle' Title

In 2011, Ford claimed the “world’s best-selling vehicle nameplate” and the company states that it once again has the right to the title for 2012. Toyota, however, sees it differently. They claim the Corolla was number one in 2012. Discerning the clear winner has been more than a little problematic.

What it comes down to is the term “nameplate” and how it is defined, which body styles and derivatives are included and who is tallying the numbers.  When these things are considered, it seems that both Toyota and Ford have a point.

Erich Merkle, top sales analyst from Ford, says, “According to Polk global new-vehicle registration data, the Ford Focus is the best-selling global vehicle nameplate.”  Of course, Toyota spokesperson Dion Corbett of Tokyo states, “Our understanding is that the Corolla is the best-selling vehicle.” The only real prize is bragging rights, and both automakers’ vehicles are top sellers.

The controversy started with a press release from Ford that included Polk data showing that the “Ford Focus nameplate” was the global leader in vehicle registrations. The company is not releasing internal numbers of Focus sales. Toyota is, however, and it claims Corolla sales totals of 1,160,764 globally last year.

Ford states that the difference has to do with the definition of “nameplate.” Vice president of forecasting for Ford, Anthony Pratt, says, “On the Focus, Ford adhered to the one-name ‘nameplate’ definition” and “didn’t include any rebadged vehicles, platform derivatives or nameplate versions.” For example, Ford doesn’t believe that Corollas with varying body styles with two-word names like the Corolla Rumion should be considered.

Toyota has excluded from its count Corolla based vehicles sold in other countries like the Auris hatchback, the Matrix and the Scion xB hatchback. It also hasn’t counted sales of the Verso wagon or the Rukis and EZ minivan models.

In addition to naming issues, there is also the gap between automobile purchase and actual registration, which may skew the numbers.

Who wins the bragging rights? According to Erich Merkle, the Focus is “the best-selling global vehicle nameplate. This is based on approved global new-vehicle nameplate registration data from Polk, a third-party source.”

If you ask Toyota, “Corolla is the best-selling vehicle” is the answer. Dion Corbett states that the company’s goal is not to be number one. He says, “Our intent is to make good cars that people want to buy.” He says the “number one nameplate status” is the result, not the goal.

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