America’s Best-Selling Cars

24/7 Wall St.

While September sales were off slightly from last year, the U.S. auto industry is up more than 8% for the year. However, success relies heavily on the popularity of just a few models. Of the nearly 12 million units sold so far, this year’s top 10 models alone have sold more than 2.9 million units. The Ford (NYSE:F) F-Series and GM's (GM) Chevrolet Silverado, the two top-selling models, are up more than 20%.

Car data site TrueCar.com provided 24/7 Wall St. with a list of the top-selling cars through the first nine months of the year. As has been the case for years, Ford’s F-Series leads the way with well more than half a million units already sold this year. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed this year’s 10 best-selling models.

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Click here to see America's best-selling cars

Not surprisingly, most of largest automakers have multiple cars among the top-sellers. Ford has three separate vehicles in the top 10, as does Honda (HMC), while Toyota (TM) has two. Nissan and General Motors -- through Chevrolet -- have one model each.

The top-selling cars this year remain basically unchanged compared to 2012. The one exception is the Ford Fusion, which moved from 11th in 2012 into the top 10, and it is already close to matching its 2012 totals. The Ford Focus fell from 10th to 13th.

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Compared to two years ago, the list of the top cars has changed a bit more. Vehicles like the Hyundai Sonata have fallen well out of the top 10. At the same time, models like the Honda Civic and the Honda CR-V have seen substantial growth. In 2011, the Honda CR-V was the 12th best-selling car. Through the first nine months of this year, it is eighth.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., TrueCar senior analyst Jesse Toprak explained that the CR-V’s improvement is indicative of a trend in the U.S. market. “We are seeing that the small SUV segment has been the fastest-growing category in the past three years.” The CR-V has benefited from that growth.

Several of the top-selling cars have been the most popular for decades. The F-series, for example, has been the top-selling truck in the United States for more than 30 years. Toprak explained that this is in part because people tend to buy models based on their long-term brand familiarity and popularity. “The top 10 have one thing in common,” he added. “They’re no-brainers. They’re all safe choices.”

Brand loyalty -- buyers opting to purchase the same model as they currently own -- is also keeping these cars consistently popular. “The number one indicator of what you’re going to buy next is what you own today," Toprak explained. "Because these vehicles have been top sellers for decades, they have the built-in advantage to have more clients come back to them.” He added that while less popular or new models must truly stand out to gain market share, these top models only need to avoid big problems to stay on top.

Based on U.S. model sales provided by TrueCar from January through September 2013, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the best-selling cars of the year. TrueCar also provided 24/7 Wall St. with full-year model sales for both 2011 and 2012. We also reviewed base manufacturer’s suggested retail price and car type from the manufacturer's websites. All U.S. total car sales change figures are for cars and light trucks.

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These are America's best-selling cars of 2013.

10. Ford Fusion
> 2013 YTD sales: 226,293
> Pct. change from 2012: 16.5%
> Starting list price: $21,900
> Model type: Sedan

The 2013 Ford Fusion was fully redesigned, incorporating new features and improved fuel economy. Ford sold 62.4% more Fusions last month than it did during September 2012. This was by far the best sales growth out of this year’s top-selling cars. The Fusion moved back into the top 10 selling models this year, after ranking 11th in 2012. TrueCar’s Toprak explained that the Fusion managed to sell well in several nontraditional geographical areas. “Not only did the vehicle do well in areas that the Fusion typically does well, but it also performed quite well in areas like the west and east coast -- California, for example. This was an area where it has in the past had a disadvantage against import brands.”

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9. Ford Escape
> 2013 YTD sales: 228,290
> Pct. change from 2012: 14.1%
> Starting list price: $22,700
> Model type: SUV

The Ford Escape’s popularity has fallen in the past few years. In 2011, it was the fifth most popular car in the country. This year, it was the ninth. The crossover SUV was completely redesigned for the 2013 model year, with changed dimensions and new interior features. Last year, Ford recalled 423,000 Escapes due to an accelerator defect, for which Ford recently paid a greater than $17 million settlement. It looks like the brand has been largely unaffected from this setback. Ford sold 14% more Escapes so far this year than it did in during the same time in 2012.

8. Honda CR-V
> 2013 YTD sales: 229,082
> Pct. change from 2012: 7.4%
> Starting list price: $22,945
> Model type: crossover SUV

Honda introduced the CR-V as a compact SUV in the late 1990s. It quickly became quite popular as a fresh alternative to large SUVs. Since the beginning of this year, Honda has sold considerably more CR-Vs than it did during all of 2011, and 7.4% more than it did in the same period in 2012. Honda also fared well abroad, particularly in China, where CR-Vs are one of the most popular SUVs. However, the sport-utility vehicle may have difficulty in what is now the world’s largest auto market after its recent announcement it would be recalling more than 400,000 CR-Vs sold in China due to defective piston rods.

7. Toyota Corolla/Matrix
> 2013 YTD sales: 233,547
> Pct. change from 2012: 4.9%
> Starting list price: $16,800
> Model type: Sedan

During the Detroit Auto Show this past January, Toyota presented its redesigned 2014 Corolla. The new model is Toyota’s first update since the 10th generation Corolla was released in 2006. The restyled exterior is meant to attract younger drivers and boost the model’s already good sales, according to The Wall Street Journal. Corolla sales rose by nearly 5% this year compared to the first nine months of 2012.

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6. Nissan Altima
> 2013 YTD sales: 249,518
> Pct. change from 2012: 6.6%
> Starting list price: $21,860
> Model type: Sedan

The Altima sold a substantial 13% less than it did during the same month last year. However, year to date, it is still up 6.6% compared to the same period in 2012. The Altima is Nissan’s best-selling model in its lineup, with sales exceeding 300,000 last year. The model’s popularity among midsize sedans may have been bolstered due to its redesign for the 2013 model year.

5. Honda Civic
> 2013 YTD sales: 253,561
> Pct. change from 2012: 8.3%
> Starting list price: $18,165
> Model type: Sedan

The Honda Civic comes in seven different versions, including a hybrid and a natural gas car. Sales of the Civic have risen since 2011, when it was just the 11th most popular car in the United States. As of September, this year’s sales already have exceeded 250,000 units. Civic sales increased by more than 8.3% during the first nine months of 2013 from the year before. The 2013 Civic has not only sold well, but it also received top safety ratings, including being named a Top SafetyPick+ by the IIHS and being awarded a 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score from the NHTSA.

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4. Honda Accord
> 2013 YTD sales: 282,102
> Pct. change from 2012: 13.8%
> Starting list price: $21,955
> Model type: Sedan

Nearly 100,000 more Honda Accords were sold in 2012 than were sold in 2011, and the model’s jump in popularity has continued through 2013. Sales during September this year were down more than 13% compared with the same month last year, but year-to-date sales were up by nearly 14% compared with the first nine months of 2012. Honda has introduced a plug-in hybrid version of the Accord for the 2014 model year.

3. Toyota Camry
> 2013 YTD sales: 318,990
> Pct. change from 2012: 1.3%
> Starting list price: $22,235
> Model type: Sedan

The Camry is the best-selling sedan in America for the 12th consecutive year. Toyota sold more than 400,000 Camrys in 2012, nearly 100,000 more than the year before. Compared with other top-selling vehicles, however, sales growth so far this year has been small. The Camry’s sales are up by 1.3% year to date. U.S. auto sales are up by 8.1% over the same period.

2. Chevrolet Silverado
> 2013 YTD sales: 360,775
> Pct. change from 2012: 21.0%
> Starting list price: $23,590
> Model type: pickup

The Chevy Silverado is the second best-selling vehicle in the United States, with more than 360,000 units sold. This is up 21% from 2012, among the largest increases of any top-selling model. Silverado's growth has widely outpaced the overall U.S. auto industry's sales growth of 8.1% so far this year, as well as the truck sales growth of 10.9%. However, unit sales of the Silverado have yet to approach unit sales of the Ford’s F-Series pickup. Also, while the Silverado was rated well in J.D. Power’s 2013 Vehicle Dependability Study, the GMC Sierra and Chevy Avalanche were considered to be more dependable than the GM-made pickup truck.

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1. Ford F-Series
> 2013 YTD sales: 559,506
> Pct. change from 2012: 20.7%
> Starting list price: $24,070
> Model type: pickup

The F-Series sells considerably better than every other vehicle sold in the United States, with well more than 600,000 pickups purchased in 2012. By comparison, the Silverado only sold just over 400,000 units last year. More than 60,000 F-Series were purchased last month alone. This was 9.8% more than in September of last year. During the first nine months of the year, sales were up 20.7% compared with the same period in 2012. This past September, at the State Fair of Texas, Ford introduced its 2015 F-Series Super Duty lineup, scheduled for release next spring.

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