The Best-Selling Car in America, Every Year Since 1978
Cars have been a staple of the U.S. economy almost since their inception. But as vehicle designs have evolved over time, and consumer tastes alongside them, the best-selling car in America has changed as well.
Finding the right mix of affordability, style, and features has meant that different manufacturers have been in the market lead during different decades.
This infographic from Alan’s Factory Outlet shows the most-purchased cars in the U.S. since 1978, not including trucks and SUVs.
What Is The Best-Selling Car in America By Year?
From 1978 to 2020, over 348 million cars were sold in the U.S., or an average of 8.1 million cars per year. Car sales were especially strong during times of high oil prices, such as following the 1979 oil crisis, as consumers avoided less fuel-efficient trucks and SUVs.
And throughout most of the 20th century, car sales in the U.S. were led by American manufacturers.
From 1978 to 1988, two of the “Big Three” Detroit-based auto manufacturers had the best-selling cars in the country. GM had two models of the Oldsmobile Cutlass and two different Chevrolets in the top spot, while Ford was able to compete with the compact Ford Escort.
But since the late 1980s, Japanese manufacturers started to take over in affordability, reliability, and overall sales.
|Years||Car Model||Best-Selling Span (U.S.)|
|1978–1981||Oldsmobile Cutlass||4 years|
|1982||Ford Escort||1 year|
|1983||Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme||1 year|
|1984–1985||Chevrolet Cavalier||2 years|
|1986||Chevrolet Celebrity||1 year|
|1987–1988||Ford Escort||2 years|
|1989–1991||Honda Accord||3 years|
|1992–1996||Ford Taurus||5 years|
|1997–2000||Toyota Camry||4 years|
|2001||Honda Accord||1 year|
|2002–2020||Toyota Camry||19 years|
After Honda and Ford fought closely for the most popular cars with the Accord and the Taurus, Toyota grabbed the crown with the ultra-popular Toyota Camry.
Toyota, which was the world’s largest automaker by market cap for a majority of the last 30 years, also has the world’s best-selling car of all-time with another popular model, the Toyota Corolla.
The company’s cars have resonated with consumers due to reliability, safety, and efficiency in spite of being mass-produced and affordable. High ownership satisfaction and low incidence rates also led Camrys to have high resale value.
Runner Ups and Best-Selling Trucks and SUVs
Just behind Toyota for many years was another Japanese automaker, Honda. The company’s Accord and Civic models consistently ranked just behind the Toyota Camry in U.S. sales throughout most of the 2000s.
Despite most of the world preferring cars for vehicle purchases, the U.S. has become light truck and SUV dominant since the 2000s.
|Car Model||Units Sold (U.S. 2020)|
The proliferation of light trucks also meant that Toyota, one of the world’s leading hybrid sellers, saw the crossover/SUV Toyota RAV4 Hybrid beat the well-known Prius consistently in U.S. sales.
Meanwhile, electric car sales in the U.S. are still far behind, climbing up to 1.8% of sales in 2020 from 1.4% the year before. Compared to countries like Norway where electric cars make up the majority of vehicle sales, the U.S. will likely be dominated by light-trucks for years to come.
Mapped: Second Primary Languages Around the World
This fascinating map highlights the second most commonly spoken primary language in almost nearly every country.
Mapped: Second Primary Languages Around the World
After the primary language, what second languages are used as native tongues in your country?
The answer reveals a lot about history and location. Whether through immigration, colonization, or local culture, a primary language can either spread around the world or remain rooted in place.
This map from MoveHub shows the second most commonly spoken primary language in most countries, using data from the CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia as of February 2021.
The Difference Between Primary and Secondary Languages
First, it’s important to differentiate between primary languages and secondary languages.
A primary language—also known as a first or native language—is the language we use most frequently to communicate. These are languages we are usually born with, have a lot of exposure to, and use at home.
On the other hand, a secondary language is one we learn or pick up after our primary language. In many countries, English is the most commonly learned, with close to 1 billion speakers.
But a map of common second languages can simply show just how many countries prioritize learning English, the de-facto international language in many organizations. Instead, this map highlights the movement of people by showing the second-most common primary language.
The Second Most Common Primary Languages by Country
Even when filtering by primary language use, however, English and other Indo-European languages dominate the world.
With 55 countries speaking it as the second-most common primary language, English came out on top.
|Top 10 Most Popular Second Primary Languages||Number of Countries|
The use of English as a second primary language was primarily concentrated in Western Europe, Northern Africa, and Southeast Asia and Oceania.
Similarly to second-place French with 14 countries and third-place Russian with 13 countries, English was most common in proximity to English-speaking countries or where there was a history of immigration.
Other second-most common primary languages highlighted different cultures within countries, such as China’s second-most common language Cantonese. Alternatively, they showed the primary indigenous language before colonization, such as the Quechua languages in South America.
What other interesting or surprising language patterns can you spot in the map above?
Mapped: Human Impact on the Earth’s Surface
This detailed map looks at where humans have (and haven’t) modified Earth’s terrestrial environment. See human impact in incredible detail.
Mapped: Human Impact on the Earth’s Surface
With human population on Earth approaching 8 billion (we’ll likely hit that milestone in 2023), our impact on the planet is becoming harder to ignore with each passing year.
Our cities, infrastructure, agriculture, and pollution are all forms of stress we place on the natural world. This map, by David M. Theobald et al., shows just how much of the planet we’ve now modified. The researchers estimate that 14.6% or 18.5 million km² of land area has been modified – an area greater than Russia.
Defining Human Impact
Human impact on the Earth’s surface can take a number of different forms, and researchers took a nuanced approach to classifying the “modifications” we’ve made. In the end, 10 main stressors were used to create this map:
- Built-Up Areas: All of our cities and towns
- Agriculture: Areas devoted to crops and pastures
- Energy and extractive resources: Primarily locations where oil and gas are extracted
- Mines and quarries: Other ground-based natural resource extraction, excluding oil and gas
- Power plants: Areas where energy is produced – both renewable and non-renewable
- Transportation and service corridors: Primarily roads and railways
- Logging: This measures commodity-based forest loss (excludes factors like wildfire and urbanization)
- Human intrusion: Typically areas adjacent to population centers and roads that humans access
- Natural systems modification: Primarily modifications to water flow, including reservoir creation
- Pollution: Phenomenon such as acid rain and fog caused by air pollution
The classification descriptions above are simplified. See the methodology for full descriptions and calculations.
A Closer Look at Human Impact on the Earth’s Surface
To help better understand the level of impact humans can have on the planet, we’ll take a closer look three regions, and see how the situation on the ground relates to these maps.
Land Use Contrasts: Egypt
Almost all of Egypt’s population lives along the Nile and its delta, making it an interesting place to examine land use and human impact.
The towns and high intensity agricultural land following the river stand out clearly on the human modification map, while the nearby desert shows much less impact.
Intensive Modification: Netherlands
The Netherlands has some of the heavily modified landscapes on Earth, so the way it looks on this map will come as no surprise.
The area shown above, Rotterdam’s distinctive port and surround area, renders almost entirely in colors at the top of the human modification scale.
Resource Extraction: West Virginia
It isn’t just cities and towns that show up clearly on this map, it’s also the areas we extract our raw materials from as well. This mountainous region of West Virginia, in the United States, offers a very clear visual example.
The mountaintop removal method of mining—which involves blasting mountains in order to retrieve seams of bituminous coal—is common in this region, and mine sites show up clearly in the map.
You can explore the interactive version of this map yourself to view any area on the globe. What surprises you about these patterns of human impact?
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