Would you believe that Ford (NYSE:F) produces a fuel-efficient car that's become the best-selling vehicle nameplate globally? That's how Ford analyzes R.L. Polk's global vehicle registration data for the first half of 2013. However, this isn't a clear-cut case of a true winner, and Toyota (NYSE:TM) is disputing Ford's claim.
No. 1 ... or is it?
People all over the globe love the Ford Focus; it sells well in Europe, China, the U.S., and pretty much everywhere it's available. Compared with last year, the Focus is up 20% through the first half of 2013 to 589,709 registrations.
One of the biggest wins for the Focus has been in China, where it's up 137% from 2012 to a total of 202,380 vehicles -- nearly a third of its global sales. This also marks the market that may have caused to the No. 1 title to change hands. That's because just over a year ago there was significant anti-Japanese backlash in China, regarding a territorial dispute over islands, and that scuffle sent Toyota, Honda, and Nissan sales plummeting as much as 50% for much of the year. That definitely enabled the Focus to put ground between itself and Toyota's Corolla, which the latter claims to have really won the ranking of the world's best-selling vehicle.
This is where it gets a bit dicey. See, Toyota claims that it sold more variations of the Corolla in the first half of the year than the Focus has sold of the Focus. Toyota also claims that R.L. Polk doesn't collect information from all the markets the Corolla sells in.
Further, it's unclear whether all the derivatives of the Corolla are included. Indeed, the Focus may be the best-selling "nameplate," because Toyota renames the Corolla in certain markets, much as how Ford renames the Fusion to the Mondeo in Europe and China. Similarly, Ford has named its Escape the Kuga in European and Chinese markets. In the future, if the Mondeo and Kuga can replicate internationally the success they've had in the U.S. under different names, Ford could run into the same troubles Toyota is facing regarding consolidating sales figures in studies.
All of the bickering aside, the true difference between Focus and Corolla registration and sales around the globe is likely slim. That said, it doesn't take away from what Ford has accomplished with its small vehicles. Consider that its Focus isn't a one-off success story; the Fiesta is also having huge success around the globe. The Fiesta ranks as the fourth best-selling vehicle overall and the best-selling subcompact through June. According to Ford, it's the only brand with two nameplates among the globe's top five best-sellers.
"Focus and Fiesta represent the culmination of our One Ford global product strategy," said Jim Farley, Ford executive vice president of global marketing, sales, and service, in a press release. "Since its launch in China in late March of last year, Focus sales continue to strengthen, with the car now ranking as the best-selling passenger car in China in 2012 for the first time ever."
Who would have guessed a decade ago that Ford would be producing two of the world's most popular small cars? Who would have guessed Ford's resurgence in the auto industry would be from producing smaller, fuel-efficient and more valuable models? Not many, that's for sure. Even as recently as five years ago, analysts all over the U.S. predicted the collapse of the U.S. auto industry, which, for the record, claimed General Motors and Chrysler in bankruptcy, but not Ford.
Ford survived the recession through its own private loans, which it has paid back, and has completed one of the finest business turnarounds in our nation's history. Even if Toyota disputes Ford's claim that the Focus is the best-selling nameplate, you can't take away from what Ford has already won -- the hearts of many U.S. and global consumers.
Fool contributor Daniel Miller owns shares of Ford. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.