A largely familiar sales ranking order of the best-selling cars of 2012 emerged as automakers released their full-year sales data today, as many of the same vehicles remain the most popular among American car-buyers.
But new product launches and redesigns contributed to some notable shifts in the order, and 2012 also represented a return to normalcy after Japanese automakers' inventories were shaken in 2011 by the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March of last year, knocking out manufacturing facilities of the automakers and their suppliers.
2012's Top 10
Holding its customary lead was the Ford F-Series pickup truck line, which includes the civilian-grade F-150 and the mechanically distinct Super Duty F-Series work trucks. The F-Series far outsold competing pickup truck lines; the Chevrolet Silverado came second in the full-size pickup class and of all vehicles. Chrysler's Ram lineup is also in the Top 10 (No. 7), and the Silverado's mechanical twin -- the GMC Sierra -- is No. 23.
A redesigned 2014-model Silverado/Sierra was just unveiled, and the Ram and F-150 both saw recent 2013-model updates. The effects of these changes will remain to be seen, but little has thus far shaken the Ford, Chevrolet, Ram, GMC ranking order.
It looked as though the Silverado was losing its two-year streak of outselling the Toyota Camry midsize sedan, which had especially strong sales in 2012. But a late-year sales surge pushed the Toyota to No. 3.
The Camry, which is generally the United States' best-selling passenger car, continues to handily outpace such fresher rivals as the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima, all of which were redesigned for the 2013 model year.
The Accord and Altima still snagged the No. 4 and No. 6 slots, respectively, in 2012; the Altima was No. 5 in 2011, and tsunami-induced inventory shortages crippled the Accord's sales and left it at No. 9 last year.
In fifth place, the critically derided Honda Civic was 2012's top-selling compact car, improving from No. 12 in 2011 and beating its pre-tsunami 2010 performance by one slot. Honda just launched a restyled 2013 Civic with revised driving dynamics, an upgraded interior and more standard features, in response to negative reviews.
Following the Civic as No. 8, after the Ram Pickup, is a compact car that's even less loved among reviewers: the Toyota Corolla and its Matrix hatchback variant. Though due for a redesign next year as a 2014 model, the Corolla inched upward from eighth place in 2011, but it had been as high as No. 5 the year before.
The No. 9 Honda CR-V displaced the competing compact crossover Ford Escape as the best-selling SUV of 2012. The Escape dropped from No. 5 in 2011 to No. 10 in 2012 despite a 2013-model redesign -- or perhaps due to it, due to higher prices and a hiccup in available inventory.
Other sales trends
Best-sellers' redesigns in general proved to be a mixed bag for sales performance in 2012. The Escape, Altima, Malibu and Fusion all slipped despite 2013-model overhauls. The Malibu in particular saw sales drop precipitously after the redesign was introduced; an emergency update is planned. The heart of the Honda line is all new -- the Civic and CR-V were redesigned as 2012 models and the Accord as a 2013 -- but their gains can be pegged to increased supply last year compared to 2011 as much as to consumer response to the cars. The Ford Focus compact car, which had a slow start in 2011 soon after its 2012 redesign, saw its sales surge during 2012, from 18th place to 11th.
Several notably aging models have also continued to hold steady high in the rankings or see their sales pick up, including Toyota's Corolla compact car (No. 8) and RAV4 compact crossover (No. 19), each of which held steady or improved despite announced upcoming redesigns and -- especially the former -- largely unfavorable critical reviews. Another aging Toyota, the Prius hybrid, has seen its sales soar as Toyota added models to the line: a plug-in hybrid, the Prius v wagon and the Prius c subcompact (which is mechanically distant from the other Prius models). The automotive world's leading example of an ancient product that still sells, the Chevrolet Impala full-size sedan, held a Top 20 position for most of the year before its sales began to dwindle in the last few months, knocking it to 21 below the Volkswagen Jetta; a lower-volume upscale 2014 redesign of the Impala is due this year.
At the same time, several cars have steadily slipped as they approach the middle age of their design lives, such as the three-year-old Chevrolet Cruze and Hyundai Sonata midsize sedan compact sedan, which dropped four places each, to No. 14 and No. 15, respectively.
Most of the sales data are collected from press releases posted here and are compiled by the Cars Examiner.