From 24/7 Wall St.: The most successful car in history may be the Ford Model T. While other models may have sold more vehicles, Ford managed to sell nearly 17 million cars from 1908 to 1927 -- a period when car ownership was rare compared to today. The Model T was so successful that nearly every other best-selling car adopted its formula. The Model T was inexpensive to buy, inexpensive to operate, reliable and built by a large company that had hundreds of dealerships and trained mechanics. The other vehicles on this list, from the VW Passat to the Toyota Corolla, share all of these characteristics. The best-selling cars through history have appealed to a broad buyer base because they are within the reach of the masses.
The best-selling vehicles have several other notable features in common. For one, the majority were introduced just before or around the same time that gas prices began to rise rapidly in the early 1970s, primarily because of the Arab oil embargo. Car companies offered 4-cylinder, light and fuel-efficient cars that allowed people to drive without badly hurting household budgets. Many of these cars continue to sell well today as gas prices are relatively high around the world.
Many of these cars also are manufactured and sold around the world. The Beetle is sold in the U.S. and Europe. The Passat is built in both the U.S. and China. Several of the best-selling cars from Japan are sold in most major countries around the world. Once a car proved its appeal with consumers, it made economic sense for a manufacturer to use the same base chassis and engine at plants on different continents.
24/7 Wall St. looked at best-selling car data from a number of sources. The sources included major media outlets that cover the auto industry, research firms, and car companies that keep lists of their own best-selling cars.