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SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — It's official: The Ford Focus was the best-selling car in the world in 2012.
Ford, leading U.S. automakers in building their best cars in decades, registered 1.02 million Focus cars in 2012, topping 872,774 for Toyota’s Corolla, according to R.L. Polk & Co. data that Ford released Tuesday. Ford’s F-Series pickup line was the No. 3 nameplate, its Fiesta subcompact was No. 6, and General Motors’ Chevrolet Cruze was No. 8, ahead of Honda’s Civic.
The vehicles with the most global registrations in 2012:
1. Ford Focus, 1,020,410
2. Toyota Corolla, 872,774
3. Ford F-Series, 785, 630
4. Wuling Zhiguang, 768,870
5. Toyota Camry, 729,793
6. Ford Fiesta, 723,130
7. Volkswagen Golf, 699,148
8. Chevrolet Cruze, 661,325
9. Honda Civic, 651,259
10. Honda CR-V, 624,982
Source: R.L. Polk & Co.
The Zhiguang, built by China's Wuling, finished fourth.
The Focus, Fiesta, and Cruze are among several models from U.S. automakers that are succeeding against Japan’s Toyota and Honda, which used to dominate car segments. Ford has been revived by Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally, who has overhauled its lineup with more fuel-efficient models to round out its strength in big pickups and sport utility vehicles.
“We had to better represent what the majority of the world is looking for, and they’re looking for smaller passenger cars,” Erich Merkle, Ford’s U.S. sales analyst, said by telephone.
Focus registrations surged 51 percent last year in China, the world’s largest auto market, according to Southfield, Mich.-based Polk.
The numbers themselves don't necessarily mean anything if robust profits don’t follow. The top-selling car in the United States remains the Toyota Camry — as it has been for 11 years — and Toyota was able to recapture the global sales crown from GM last year.
All that said, the announcement is good reason for Ford — and the resurgent U.S. auto industry — to cheer.
Mr. Merkle said the Focus was the world’s best-selling car in 2011 also, but Polk didn’t publicly declare a sales winner in 2011.
Ford probably hasn’t been able to claim the global best-selling model since the days of founder Henry Ford's Model T or its successor, the Model A, accoding to John Wolkonowicz, an independent auto analyst based in Boston.
Volkswagen had the most global reach with its Beetle beginning in the mid-1950s, and Volkswagen’s Golf and Toyota’s Corolla have traded worldwide sales leadership by model more recently.
“It's a significant achievement for Ford,” Mr. Wolonowicz said.