From the ruggedness of a Jeep to the familiarity of a Honda, dozens of automakers are constantly competing to win over new car buyers, each offering unique value in comfort, cost and performance.
So, which one is hitting the nail on the head with American consumers? In a rapidly changing industry subject to evolving technology and new economic hurdles, the answer is not as definitive as it once was.
To give you an idea of which manufacturers are driving the industry today, let’s take a look at America’s best-selling car brands.
the 10 most popular car brands in america
for the first time in 90 years, gm lost the race for u.s. sales volume in 2021. it was also the first year a foreign brand ranked first. As a leading brand and automaker, Toyota ruled 2021, thanks in large part to its navigation of chip shortages that slashed production across the industry.
the toyota brand led the field with more than 1.9 million sales in 2021. meanwhile, the lexus lineup enjoyed a 10.7% sales increase and the company sold 2.3 million vehicles overall , outperforming gm brands by 114,034 units.
While it may not be sustainable, Toyota’s position at the top nonetheless signifies its prowess among mass-market vehicles. The brand is a leader in safety, and with its extensive lineups and position in the hybrid market, Toyota caters to anyone who needs a practical vehicle.
Ford sales fell 6.2% in 2021, reflecting common supply chain issues. That didn’t stop it from taking a solid second place among the best-selling car brands, having produced more than 1.8 million vehicles.
The brand anchors itself with its f-series lineup, an American icon that has remained the nation’s best-selling vehicle for 40 consecutive years. Ford sold more than 725,000 of its popular trucks in 2021, about 156,540 more than its closest competitor, Ram.
Ford is also poised for a successful EV transition as more states move to cut gas-powered vehicle sales by 2035. The Mustang Mach E is making waves as the next evolution of the famed pony car and acclaimed F- 150 lightning is already leading the relatively young ev truck market.
chevrolet is gm’s leading brand, with nearly 1.5 million sales in 2021. as with other gm names, such as buick, cadillac and gmc, chevy’s inventory and sales fell from the previous year , causing the parent company to drop to number two in total sales.
Declining sales is nothing new for chevy as they haven’t posted sales increases since 2015, and market share has been falling steadily since 2011. the brand’s leading vehicle, the silverado, had the worst drop among the best-selling models of the previous year. Posting an 11% year-over-year loss, it lost the number two spot in pickup trucks in 2021 to the ram truck.
not everything is bad for chevrolet. Launching a Silverado EV will keep her competitive in a new arena. Due to a redesign, the truck is enjoying a sales revival in 2022, allowing the lineup to retake second place behind the Ford F-Series.
Honda may not come close to matching Toyota’s sales figures, but it enjoys a big lead over the third best-selling non-domestic car brand, Nissan. The Honda brand sold just over 1.3 million vehicles in 2021, 9% more than the previous year.
thanks to supply chain issues, the small sales increase didn’t hold up in 2022 despite a redesign of its popular civic line. still, upcoming updates to the brand’s leading cr-v and popular hr-v crossover may have stalled interest in 2022. with the arrival of new models, the cr-v should return to its usual spot in the top 10 -car sales.
With just 919,090 sales in 2021, Nissan ranks a distant fifth among America’s most popular auto brands. but that’s par for the course for the Japanese brand, as it also posted a modest rise in 2021, while US brands took a step back.
Perhaps it was the waning excitement of the restyled 2021 Rogue, but the brief uptick cooled when Nissan again began to show gradual declines in sales in 2022 to start the year.
With the tiny contributions of rogue sport disappearing from the lineup in 2023, the rogue sales figures could fall further in the years to come. But with recent redesigns to the subcompact kicks and the midsize pickup, Nissan has a plan to hold its own with a strong pickup lineup.
jeep deals more with its iconic status than with any industry-leading technology or performance specs. The Wrangler is as popular as ever despite stiff competition from newer faces like the Bronco. The Grand Cherokee, meanwhile, enjoyed a 26% sales increase from 2020 to 2021, a greater increase than any other vehicle in the top ten.
The Grand Cherokee joined the top ten best-selling cars list in 2021 and 2022 following the introduction of a three-row model and new two-row options. With a relatively minor downturn from the previous year, the brand even managed to outshine Nissan in sales in early 2022.
along with the grand cherokee l, jeep is shaking up the wrangler to keep it attractive in a changing landscape. the recent 4xe hybrid and the announcement of a fully electric model for 2024 should broaden the appeal of the lineup for the foreseeable future.
hyundai has ignored what is bad for the industry. The historically budget-focused brand has earned high marks for quality in recent years without sacrificing affordability, which could explain its relative success during the pandemic.
hyundai moved 726,715 vehicles in 2021, an increase of approximately 20% from the previous year, to lead the top ten auto brands in year-over-year sales increases. And while 2022 proved that Hyundai was not immune to the downturn sweeping the industry, the movement in its focus models is cause for excitement.
sales of its most popular models, the tucson and santa fe, enjoyed sales increases in 2021. the redesigned tucson, a new face among the top 25 cars in america, set monthly sales records in june 2022 With HEV options on the Elantra and, more recently, the Santa Fe posting positive growth, the future is bright for the South Korean brand in America.
Hyundai’s sister company once again demonstrates the resilience of South Korean brands in the new decade, posting a nearly 20% increase in 2021 to overtake Subaru as No. 8 among Korea’s best-selling car brands. United States. If a 97% increase in demand for its heavy-duty and power lines is any indication, Kia’s popularity should continue to rise.
Kia’s cumulative sales decline in 2022 is far from the worst in the industry. Ford has fared better to start 2022, down an impressively low 0.2% after the first half of the year. but Kia is a clear second with only a 9.1% decrease compared to 2021.
ram and chevy have competed for the title of America’s second favorite vehicle for years. Although barely behind the Silverado in 2022, the Ram was the clear winner of the two in 2021. The Ram 1500 is a perennial favorite for “Truck of the Year” awards, and is considered by many to be the best full-size pickup. of all time.
While established brands have switched to EVs to keep consumer interest alive, Ram has stuck to a conservative but effective formula, keeping it competitive with top-selling auto brands despite a limited lineup. With an EV 1500 scheduled for 2024, it won’t be long before the brand takes over an entirely new market.
Subaru rounds out the top ten best-selling car brands and managed to record nearly 600,000 sales through the end of 2021. Unfortunately, 2021 saw a drop in sales for the Tokyo-based brand, and the bad luck only seems to continue into 2022. Its most popular model, the Forester, fell out of the top 25 vehicles, primarily because of its low fuel consumption in an increasingly competitive, hybrid-rich compact sport utility vehicle segment.
That doesn’t mean Subaru won’t go back to normal. America’s truck, the Outback, is still going strong, as is the Crosstrek. With the new solterra ev due in 2023 and a revolutionary AI-powered safety system for its lineup in 2025, the brand should return to the success it has enjoyed for most of the last decade.
after a strong 2021, select brands are again seeing trouble in the way of low inventories. With EVs taking control of the market, an entirely new range of brands spearheaded by Tesla are rapidly stealing market share from the old guards. The game is changing, and with a full transition to electric on the horizon, the next few years will mark a new era for America’s best-selling auto brands.
featured image credit: shilin wang, pixabay