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Pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles are once again popular among Americans, thanks to lower fuel prices and an improving economy. But outside the U.S., people prefer small, fuel efficient cars like the Ford Focus.
Driven by demand in China and other Asian markets, the Focus is likely to finish 2013 as the most popular car in the world, according to LMC Automotive. It would be the second year in a row that Focus ranked highest in global sales. In 2012, it ousted the Corolla from the top spot.
Yet the Focus is far from being America’s best-selling small car. Through November, it ranks fifth in the segment. The leader, Honda Civic, doesn’t even crack the Top 10 globally.
The figures are a reminder that the U.S. doesn’t carry the same market clout as China and other emerging countries today. About 80 percent of all Focus sales occur outside the U.S., while half of all Civics are sold here. Although sales in the world’s mature auto markets have leveled off, a new set of emerging markets—with larger and younger populations, rapidly growing economies, and low vehicle-ownership rates—are fueling the industry’s growth.
LMC predicts global light-vehicle sales will reach 83.5 million units in 2013, the fourth consecutive year of record global sales. That’s a 31 percent increase from 2009, the trough of the Great Recession. By 2020, LMC expects global light-vehicle sales to reach about 117 million units annually—a stunning 40% increase from the 2013 forecast.
Like many other carmakers, Ford Motor has built its global strategy around a handful of cars that sell in large numbers around the world. The Focus is the best example. It has been locked in a neck-and-neck global sales battle with the Toyota Corolla for much of 2013, but LMC’ expects Focus to edge out its Japanese rival by about 58,000 units. Projected sales of the Focus are 1,059,574 vs. 1,001,141 for the Corolla. The Civic, meanwhile, is forecast to finish at No. 11, with sales of about 665,000 units.
Small cars dominate the list of global best-sellers, including the Volkswagen Jetta (also sold as the Vento or Bora in some markets) at No. 3, the Hyundai Elantra (called the Avante at home in Korea) at No. 4 and the Chevy Cruze at No. 5.
The Toyota Camry, America’s best-selling car, is the only mid-sized vehicle in the top 10 globally, ranking No. 6 with projected sales of 728,230 units (more than half in the United States). Just one SUV cracks the top 10: the Honda CR-V, with projected sales of 697,955, is No. 9. Rounding out the top 10 are the Volkswagen Golf (No. 7); Ford Fiesta (No. 8), and Volkswagen Polo (No. 10).
The Polo, which leads the global minicar segment, is the only vehicle on the list of the World’s Most Popular Cars that isn’t sold in the United States. Yet the U.S. Top 10 looks much different, with only three cars in common with the global list (Camry, Corolla and CR-V). It’s dominated by trucks, including the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado and Ram pickup, as well as larger family cars like the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata and Nissan Altima.