Toyota Corolla vs Ford Focus – Which One Really Sold the Most in 2012?

Posted by Stephen On Friday, April 12th, 2013

Most of you have heard by now that the Ford Focus was the best-selling model in the world during 2012, taking the crown over the cumulatively best-selling car ever, the Toyota Corolla. Ford made their claim based on delivery data gathered by R.L. Pork & Co., which put the Ford Focus at 1,020,410 sales compared to the Toyota Corolla’s 872,774.

Toyota Corolla

But, Toyota isn’t about to be outdone so easily. They are still the biggest automaker in the world, and they’re out to prove to you. That’s why yesterday Toyota made a claim of their own stating that they sold 1,160,764 Corolla nameplates during 2012, more than 30% above the number put forth by Polk.

The question is, where did this major discrepancy come from, and who’s actually in the right?

Toyota’s U.S. Vice President, Mike Mechels, was just as mystified as we are, unfortunately. He expressed his annoyance through an email to Bloomberg saying, “Corolla registrations attributed to Polk come up short by nearly 300,000 units. This discrepancy is glaring and we have requested clarification.”

Sadly, it doesn’t sound like clarification will be coming anytime soon. Michelle Culver from the folks over at Polk reiterated that they wouldn’t be able to provide anymore data than what we’ve heard from Ford. Thus, if the third party is what makes the difference, the Ford Focus really is the best-selling nameplate in the world.

But… that doesn’t explain where Toyota’s extra 300K units came from.

During August of last year, a similar debate went down where Ford celebrated their 350 millionth vehicle with the bold claim that the Focus was outselling the Corolla for the first 6 months of ’12 based on figures from IHS Global Insight. Toyota and the rest of the automotive community quickly pointed out that the numbers IHS put together excluded several Corolla variants – specifically Corolla derivatives that go by a different name in a different market.

However, that doesn’t seem to be the problem this time around; the numbers from Toyota’s own counting department still don’t add up. The 1,160,764 units cited by Toyota actually does NOT include all the Corolla derivatives, which if included would put the count at 1,381,842. The number including Corolla derivatives is nearly double the figure cited by Polk & Corp., which seems well above the normal realm of error; something fishy’s going on here.

In the end, perhaps it doesn’t matter. Quotes by Bloomberg, Alan Baum from Baum & Associates had it right saying, “There is no simple answer here – it’s basically for bragging rights, so you define it however you like to suit your purposes. Suffice it to say these are both global models that are extremely popular and whose sales are likely to grow as the volumes in developing countries increase.” In other words, whichever car actually sold the most vehicles, they’re both going to continue selling increasingly well – a good thing for both Ford and Toyota.

But come on, we all know that Toyota took the crown. Nice try Ford.

Sources: Bloomberg, The Truth About Cars

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