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USA 1980-1985: The last time the French really tried

Renault Alliance USA 1983. Picture courtesy of autotitre.comIn 1983 the Renault Alliance was the best-selling all-new nameplate in the USA overall…

* See the Top 20 best-selling European cars/brands in the US in 1980-85 by clicking on the title! *

* You can also check out 1908-2013 USA historical sales data here *

Today I can share with you detailed European models sales data for the US between 1980 and 1985. Random, I know, but this period coincides with the last attempt from French manufacturers to crack the American market. And it looked good at the start, with the Renault Alliance produced in Wisconsin, a US version of the Renault 9, shooting directly to best-selling all-new nameplate in the country in 1983 with almost 125,000 sales!

But let’s start from the beginning. In 1980, no one would have bet on any European car even remotely threatening the VW Rabbit (aka Golf). It sold 191,166 units in the USA that year, or almost 5 (yes five) times the sales of the 2nd most popular European model, the Volvo DL… The Renault LeCar, a Yankee Renault 5, ranks 6th with 23,201 sales, an ok figure but not enough to allow Renault a long-term spot in this market.

Renault LeCar USA 1980Renault LeCar

Other interesting members of the European Top 20 in 1980 include the Audi 5000 (the US 100), VW Dasher (aka Passat), the Fiat 138 Strada at #9 – the last time a Fiat would rank inside the European Top 10 in the US and the Peugeot 505 at #16…

VW Rabbit USA 1981VW Rabbit

1981 sees the VW Rabbit hold onto the pole position by far in spite of sales down 17%, the VW Jetta gain 13 spots to #5 and make it 4 Volkswagen in the European Top 7. The Peugeot 505 breaks into the European Top 10 at #10 thanks to sales up 37% to 15,156 units while Renault becomes the #6 European brand thanks to the Renault 18i sportwagon which breaks into the European Top 20 at #16.

Renault 18i Sportwagon USA 1981Renault 18i

In 1982 the Volvo DL nearly doubles its sales to reach 70,827 vs. 107,396 for the VW Rabbit, but the entire Top 5 remains unchanged on 1981. The Saab 900 enters the Top 10 and the Renault Fuego the Top 20.

Peugeot 604 USA. Picture courtesy of forum-auto.comPeugeot 604

Renault Encore USA 1984Renault Encore

1983 is the year everything changes: Renault instantly becomes the best-selling European manufacturer in the US with 163,295 vs. 142,436 for Volkswagen, mainly thanks to the arrival of the Renault Alliance, the best-selling European model this year at 124,687 units vs. 83,222 for the VW Rabbit.

More analysis and 1980-1985 Top 20 European models/All-brands Ranking Tables below.

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