Ford Focus or Toyota Corolla Vying for Title of “World’s Best-Selling Car”

Toyota Motor Corporation and Ford Motor Company are each claiming to have had the top-selling vehicle in the world during the first half of 2012. In a statement, Ford claimed that its sale of 489,616 Focus compact cars during the first six months of the year earned it the title because the sales were all for a single nameplate. The automaker cited research compiled by IHS Automotive to support its claim.

Toyota, however, claims that its sale of 462,187 Corollas plus an additional 100,000 Corolla variants, like the Corolla Verso wagon which it sells in its home market, vehicles make it the clear winner.  If all the Corolla derivatives are included in the calculation, Toyota’s first half sales total 603,840 vehicles.

So is the title really worth quibbling over? The answer is an unequivocal “yes.” Success begets success and having a model recognized as the “best-selling car in the world” can be a boon, especially in today’s competitive marketplace.

Nielsen Holdings NV executive vice president and former marketing executive with Ford, Mitsubishi and Kia Ian Beavis says people tend to justify their vehicle purchase based on its popularity. “It’s a psychological issue,” said Beavis, “and it works in reverse, because people will be suspicious of models that aren’t popular.”

In an email Ford spokesman Mark Truby said, “We are proud of the momentum and customer demand for the Ford Focus around the world.” Ford CEO Alan Mulally has set an annual global sales target or 8 million units by 2015.

Along with the Versa wagon, IHS Automotive also failed to include the Toyota’s European Corolla variant, the Auris, in its first half sales calculations. But IHS sales analyst Chris Hopson defends the validity of the company’s research and points to the fact that the C-Max wagon, which is a Focus derivative, was not included in Ford’s sales tally.

In an email, Toyota’s U.S. spokesman Mike Michels said, “Corolla Verso, Auris and Matrix have been consistently recognized and reported as Corollas in sales results.” He said that sales of the Auris and Verso totaled 48,000 and 58,000 respectively during the January through June period.

In an interview, Hopson was critical of Toyota’s claim that the playing field was less than level. “In the world of lies, damn lies and statistics, I’m sure Toyota is thinking this is one of those instances,” said Hopson. “The data we supplied to Ford was nameplate level only, just Focus to Corolla.”

In a statement, Ford’s head of global marketing Jim Farley said, “The Focus is attracting many new customers to the Ford brand for the very first time, particularly in Asia.” Farley was in Thailand to commemorate the 350 millionth vehicle to roll off of a Ford assembly line. The vehicle was, coincidentally, a Focus.

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