Toyota Corolla Now America's Best-Selling Vehicle*

Posted: July 2, 2008

There's a new best-selling vehicle in America, again.  It's a small, Japanese-designed sedan with a four-cylinder engine, again.  It's not, however, the same one that won the title when May sales figures were released.

In May, the Honda Civic knocked the Ford F-150 off the perch it had held, almost uninterrupted, for 17 years.  In June, the Toyota Corolla outsold the Civic.   

That conclusion is mildly controversial.  As Kicking Tires points out, "Toyota includes Matrix sales along with that Corolla number because they’re built on the same platform."  If you consider the Matrix and Corolla to be one vehicle, then it's America's hottest seller.  The two share many parts, but are marketed separately and aimed at different segments of the market.  It isn't clear, for instance, that a Corolla and a Matrix have more in common than a Jeep Patriot and a Dodge Nitro, but sales of those two models are reported separately.

Counting Matrix sales as Corolla sales, however, helps ensure that Toyota can continue to call the Corolla history's best-selling car, a claim it has made in Corolla marketing for years.

It may not matter much.  If we count Matrix and Corolla sales separately, Toyota still claims the top spot.  Its Camry was the second hottest seller in the U.S. in June -- or, if you count Corolla and Matrix sales separately, the Camry came in first.  The Civic was the third fastest-seller in June, followed by Honda's Accord midsize car.  The F-150 again finished fifth.

Though Toyota claimed the top two spots, it may be in rougher shape heading into July.  Toyota reported an 11.5 percent drop in overall sales last month, partially on supply concerns.  Reuters reports, "The surge in popularity for small cars and fuel-efficient hybrids has left Toyota facing an unusual problem: deepening shortages of popular models such as the Prius hybrid. … Toyota executives said a dwindling inventory of vehicles, such as the Prius, Yaris and Corolla, had forced the automaker to scramble to try to keep up with demand in June."  Toyota says it currently has a 15-day supply of Corollas, and a one-week supply of Yaris sedans.  The automotive industry aims to have 60 days of inventory of each car available at any given time. 

In contrast, Consumer Affairs notes, Honda "reported a 13.8 percent gain over June 2007 and a new monthly sales record."

The capacity to produce small, four-cylinder cars may be what separates the successful from the struggling in the auto industry for the rest of 2008.  CNN Money notes that Honda, with its sales growth in June, "has the capacity to build 400,000 Honda Civic small cars annually."  GM, which saw a 21 percent drop in sales, "can build only 250,000 Chevy Cobalts."

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