* See the 39 Finland Historical posts at the end of the article *
Thanks to Vesa Leinonen we have doubled our coverage of the Finland market with 20 additional articles now spanning over 60 years to go back to 1956. All-brands rankings are available from 1956 onwards and Top 50 models from 1970. Due to rationing restrictions in the aftermath of World War II, the Finnish market’s early influences were markedly Soviet and Eastern European, with Russian brand Moskvitsh simply topping the overall brands ranking in 1956, 1957 and from 1959 to 1962, making Finland one of the few Western countries where the brand was imported, let alone was the best-seller. Meanwhile Pobeda ranked #2 in 1956, Wartburg ranked 5th from 1960 to 1962 and Volga peaked at #7 in 1958.
1971 sees the arrival of Lada, rapidly climbing the ladder to become an immediate blockbuster. Its unique model at the time, the Lada 1200 climbs on the annual podium for its first full year of sales in 1972 and takes the overall lead in 1974, the start of an implacable domination over the following decade. The Lada 1200-2107 ends up as Finland’s best-seller for 10 out of 11 years from 1974 to 1984 (only exception in 1980). It remained on the annual podium until 1991 and inside the Top 10 until 1993. The Lada Samara was also an instant hit at #7 in 1987 for its first full year in market, then peaking at #6 in 1989.
There was also a distinctive Italian accent to the Finnish market in the seventies, with Fiat becoming the best-selling carmaker in the country in 1971, 1972 and 1974 and the Fiat 600 best-selling model in 1971.
Finland is also one of the first successful forays into European markets for Japanese manufacturers. Datsun is the first to arrive in 1962, followed by Toyota and Suzuki in 1963, Isuzu in 1964, Honda in 1965, Mazda in 1966, Daihatsu in 1968, Mitsubishi in 1970 and Suzuki and Subaru in 1982. Datsun is the first Japanese brand to break into the annual Finnish Top 10, ranking #6 in 1965, the same year both Toyota and Isuzu break into the Top 20 for the first time. In 1966, Toyota (#7) joins Datsun (#6) in the Top 10 and in 1967 Toyota becomes the first Japanese marque to break into the annual Top 5. It then lands on podium for the first time in 1970 at #3, goes on to place #2 in 1971 and historically takes the overall brands lead in 1973 (with the Corolla #1 model that same year), only 10 years after first landing in the country.
Datsun climbs onto the podium for the first time in 1975 and manages its first annual win in 1979, then holds onto the title of best-selling brand in Finland for 6 consecutive years until 1985 when Toyota reclaims command. In 1980, Datsun is #1 and Toyota #2, making it two Japanese brands in the annual Top 2 for the first time. This feat would repeat in 1983 and 1984 when Datsun is renamed Nissan, then from 1985 to 1988 and in 1991 with Toyota above Nissan. With Mazda up to #6 in 1983, there are three Japanese brands in the Finnish Top 6 for the first time. It would remain so for five consecutive years until 1987, then again in 1990 and 1991.
In the eighties, Japanese nameplates invade the Finnish models ranking also: in 1982, there are four Japanese nameplates in the Top 6: the Datsun Cherry (#2), Toyota Corolla (#4), Mazda 323 (#5) and Datsun Sunny (#6). In 1983 the Japanese do one better, placing four nameplates in the Top 5: the Nissan Sunny (#2), Toyota Corolla (#3), Nissan Cherry (#4) and Mazda 323 (#5). Then in 1984 it’s five in the Top 7: Sunny (#2), Corolla (#3), 323 (#5), Cherry (#6) and Mazda 626 (#7). In 1987 and 1988 the Top 2 best-sellers are Japanese: Corolla and Sunny, this would repeat in 1991. Finally 1991 is the last year 4 Japanese nameplates manage to rank inside the annual Top 5: Corolla (#1), Sunny (#2), Carina (#4) and Primera (#5).
Korean carmakers took a lot longer to impress the Finnish: after landing in 1986 with just one sale, Hyundai ranks #27 in 1990 and #18 in 1992 but is back down to 0.1% share in 1998 and zero sales in 1999. The Hyundai Pony is the first Korean nameplate to break into the Finnish Top 50 (#46) in 1991, repeating this feat each year until 1994.
From 1985 onwards and for over two decades the title of most popular model in Finland is a fight between the Toyota Corolla, #1 in from 1985 to 1993, 1997, 1998 and from 2002 to 2007, and the Opel Astra, leader from 1994 to 1996 and from 1999 to 2001. Used to the top spots nowadays, the VW Golf however did take a very long time to convince Finnish customers: launched in 1974, it had to wait until 1987 to finally break into the annual Top 10, and 1994 to leap onto its first podium. It snaps its first crown in 2008 and holds onto it for 3 years before passing it on to the Skoda Octavia in 2011, then resurfacing at #1 in 2013. In 2012 the Nissan Qashqai takes the lead and would repeat this feat in 2018, with the Skoda Octavia reclaiming the pole position from 2014 to 2017 and in 2019.
The links to all Finland Historical Data articles are below.