10 Best-Selling Vehicles for 2011
Here are the cars and trucks that resonated most with American consumers in 2011.
The list of 2011's best-selling vehicles is out, and it looks as if America's Big Three have something to celebrate: They captured six of the top 10 spots. Unfortunately, the reason for their success isn't entirely due to better products. Instead, Mother Nature seems to have had it out for Japan's Big Three this year.
Still trying to recover from the global economic meltdown of 2008-09, Honda, Nissan and Toyota were hamstrung in 2011 by two natural disasters. An earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan in March and flooding in Thailand in July shut down production plants and crippled supply chains all over the world, leading to severe vehicle shortages at dealers and a serious reduction in sales.
Honda saw its popular CR-V and Civic fall out of the top 10 this year, and the Accord dropped from fourth to ninth overall. Toyota lost sales for its two top-10 entries, the Camry and Corolla, even though the former remained America's best-selling car. Nissan weathered the storm better than its Japanese rivals by getting production up and running quicker, and by focusing attention on its models built in the United States, which were not as affected by the disasters.
Here, we look at each of the models in the top 10 and what got them there.
Total sales: 584,917 | Percentage change: +10.7 percent
The Ford F-Series has been the best-selling truck in the U.S. for 35 years and the best-selling vehicle for 30 years, and the changes Ford made to it for the 2011 model year assured that it would stay far ahead of the competition. A new engine lineup improved both power and fuel economy; the turbocharged EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6 took the mantle as our favorite full-size pickup engine. On the whole, the F-Series remains one of the most refined truck lineups on the market, with all the capability that owners can ask for and technology unmatched by the competition.
Total sales: 415,130 | Percentage change: +12.2 percent
It's been awhile since the Silverado 1500 was updated, but the Heavy Duty models got a well-received redesign for the 2011 model year that placed them among the brawniest workhorses on the market. Still, the entire Silverado lineup gained market share, though marginally. Part of the reason may be the momentum gained when the Silverado HD won the 2011 Motor Trend Truck of the Year honors. Despite the age of the 1500, it offers competitive engines, plenty of cargo-hauling and towing capability, and a comfortable ride.
3. Toyota Camry
Total sales: 308,510 | Percentage change: -5.9 percent
While the Toyota Camry remained America's best-selling car, sales were down because of the aforementioned product shortages; you can't sell what you don't have. Production didn't recover from the earthquake until September, and inventory levels aren't expected to be up to normal until the end of the first quarter of 2012. Unfortunately for Toyota, the slowdown happened amid a redesign of the Camry, and redesigns usually cause a car's sales to increase. While the redesign made a good car even better, some think that Toyota played it too safe and that the car won't scare off any of its competition, which is only going to get stiffer over the next year with redesigns scheduled for the Chevrolet Malibu and Ford Fusion.
Total sales: 268,981 | Percentage change: +17.3 percent
The Nissan Altima improved from seventh to fourth on the list of overall best-sellers. Nissan credits adept crisis management for its success. "We got our inventories back up to full levels in about 45 days after the tsunami. Toyota and Honda paled by comparison," says Al Castignetti, vice president and general manager of Nissan North America. Castignetti says that being named a Consumer Reports Top Pick also helped spark Altima sales. We find the Altima to be one of the most engaging midsize cars to drive. It also delivers plenty of space, strong engines and a quality interior.
5. Ford Escape
Total sales: 254,293 | Percentage change: +33.1 percent
Proof that the crossover market is red-hot, the aging Ford Escape jumped from 13th to fifth on the annual best-sellers list. Not a bad way to go out, since the Escape is due for a complete redesign this year. The current Escape was built at a time when big, macho SUVs were all the rage. While it makes good use of space, it falls behind the competition in ride and handling. The 2013 model, due in dealerships this spring, should rectify those deficiencies.
6. Ford Fusion
Total sales: 248,067 | Percentage change: +13.2 percent
Ford had quite a good year with the Fusion, which posted its best sales year ever and improved from eighth to sixth in overall sales. Ford executives say the momentum from 2010 helped sales in 2011. After all, in 2010 the Fusion was named the Motor Trend Car of the Year as well as the North American Car of the Year by a panel of automotive journalists. Both honors came after a substantial midcycle update for the 2009 model year, not a complete redesign. We like the current model's spacious interior and efficient hybrid powertrain, but we're looking forward to the redesigned Fusion, which is due late this summer.
7. Ram Pickups
Total sales: 244,763 | Percentage change: +22.6 percent
Not only did the sale of Ram pickups — which include the half-ton 1500 and the heavy-duty 2500 and 3500 — increase in 2011, but Chrysler Group's full-size pickups gained 1.5 points of market share. It seems consumers finally accept that Ram is its own brand, and not just a model under the Dodge umbrella. In our opinion, the Ram 1500 is the best-looking full-size truck, and, thanks to a coil-spring rear suspension, it offers the most comfortable ride, too. We also like the strong and well-branded Hemi V8 engine and the innovative RamBox in-bed storage system.
Total sales: 240,259 | Percentage change: -9.7 percent
The Corolla sedan and Matrix hatchback remained in the top 10, but fell two spots to seventh overall. That's a pretty impressive performance, given Toyota's production struggles and the vastly improved competition. The Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra are all excellent cars and their sales are on the rise. Their ride, handling and interior quality surpass the Corolla/Matrix, making us wonder if Toyota will respond with improved compacts any time soon. In terms of reliability and resale value, however, the Corolla/Matrix is still a good buy.
9. Honda Accord
Total sales: 235,625 | Percentage change: -16.9 percent
The natural disasters in Japan and Thailand really put a crimp in Honda's 2011 sales. The automaker didn't get all of its operations back up and running until November, and inventory levels won't return to normal until spring. As a result, overall company sales were down 6.9 percent; the Accord took a 16.9 percent hit. The Accord is still a fine vehicle, with plenty of space, good engines and decent handling, but it's getting a little long in the tooth. It's due for a redesign this year. Hopefully, Honda will take a larger step forward than Toyota in response to the improving competition.
10. Chevrolet Cruze
Total sales: 231,732 | Percentage change: +846 percent
Entering 2011, Chevrolet's goal was to sell 200,000 compact Cruzes while maintaining midsize Malibu sales. It beat both of those projections. The highlight was Cruze sales, which were up an astonishing 81 percent in 2011 over combined Cruze and Cobalt sales for 2010. Why? Quality. In our opinion, the Cruze is the best compact in Chevrolet's 100-year history. It's incredibly refined and fun to drive. The styling is modern and progressive but not overdone, and the Eco trim gets 42 mpg on the highway — and it does all that with prices starting at only $16,720. Pretty good.
Sales Data: Automotive News Data Center, Automobile Manufacturers
Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, and currently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.
- Visit MSN Autos' "Exhaust Notes" blog to keep up on all things automotive.
- In the market for a new car? MSN Autos is pleased to provide you with information and services designed to save you time, money and hassle. Click to research prices and specifications on any new car on the market or get a free price quote through MSN Autos' New-Car Buying Service.
Must-See on MSN
Nice to see ford chevy and chrysler doing so well it seems the american companys are trying and succeeding to win back the public with looks ,dendability ,quality, and service about time make mine in America
You bring up a good point. Many folks do not realize, and some simply do not care where their vehicle purchasing dollars go. When someone purchases a vehicle from a foreign nameplate, 80% of the purchase price goes to the home country, supporting their economy, not ours. Purchasing an American brand name vehicle keeps about 90% of the purchase price here in the U.S. which supports our economy.
All Japanese brand vehicles, even the ones assembled here, are included in the statement of 80% of the money going to Japan. The Japanese stock reports in their own newspapers and shareholder publications confirm that. They do not lie to their own people/shareholders.
" Honda Nissian and Toyota were hamstrung in 2011 by two natural disasters. "
Again the writers are bias towards imports. Did you forget about the natural disasters that we have seen here in the US, deadly drought and wildfires, killer tornados, hugh floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes? Enough with the double standard.
"The natural disasters in the USA this last year did not inhibit the production of vehicles in Detroit did they?"
Frosty`s spun out again, he seems to think Detroit Mi is the only city where vehicles like GM, Dodge and Ford manufacture their vehicles.
Frosty, I`m well versed in history. In fact, our country has always been self sufficient, industrious, innovative and for most of our country`s history, have not only set but raised the bar when it comes to setting world class standards, including building world class automobiles. It was companies like GM, Ford and Dodge that saw to it that our men and woman had the very best equipment during WW 11 that helped them win the war. "Do your history homework"
To engineer, design, assemble and produce, from paper to conception, world class automobiles and our ability to sustain that is key in the future of our country, and my children's.
Proud to be an American!