The Toyota Corolla was #1 in the world 1980.
20/08/2019 update: Now with information for 1983 (1 new and 2 updated articles).
The direct links to 35 Historical World posts are below.
Thanks to Florian at Interautonews I can now share with you the world’s best-selling models in much more detail for selected years during the 1997-2005 period, but also a Top 1000 from 2012 onwards. If the domination of the VW Beetle up until 1973 is relatively common knowledge, the perception that the Toyota Corolla has topped the charts without interruption ever since is actually inaccurate, with a handful of nameplates managing to interrupt the Corolla’s reign and climb on top of the world over the period…
The VW Beetle is estimated to have been #1 worldwide from 1960 to 1973. The Ford Escort took the worldwide lead in 1983.The GM Corsa was #1 in the world in 1998.The VW Golf was the best-selling car in the world in 1978 and 2000.
The VW Golf in the most popular model in the world in 1978 and 2000, the Ford Escort in 1983 and the Corsa, sold under the Opel and Chevrolet brands, in 1998. But the Toyota has reclaimed the pole position in 2005 up until today, or 15 consecutive years.
If you have any more detailed world models data please do contact us here. Blatant needs are for any year before 1980, most of the eighties and from 2001 to 2005.
All World Historical posts:
World 1960-1974: VW Beetle conquers the planet
World 1974: Toyota Corolla takes command
World 1975-1977: Toyota Corolla in the lead
World 1978: VW Golf passes Toyota Corolla to claim first ever top spot
World 1979-1980: Toyota Corolla clear leader, Renault 5 and VW Golf follow
World 1981-1982: Toyota Corolla estimated to be #1
World 1983: Ford Escort topples Toyota Corolla for #1
World 1984-1989: Toyota Corolla estimated to resume domination
World 1990-1991: Toyota Corolla closes in on the million
World 1992-1997: Toyota Corolla reinforces world domination
World 1998: GM Corsa the best-selling car in the world
World 2000: VW Golf in pole position (with Top 120 best-selling models)
World 2005: Toyota Corolla reclaims leadership
World 2006-2008: Toyota Corolla should stay on top
World 2009: Toyota Corolla #1 with 900,000+ sales
World 2010: Toyota Corolla leader, Hilux #1 in 28 countries
World 2011: Corolla faithful to pole position, discover the Top 100 best-selling models!
World vehicle population tops 1 billion units
World 2012: Discover the Top 1000 best-selling models
World 2013: Discover the Top 1000 best-selling models
World 2014: Discover the Top 1000 best-selling models
World 2015: Discover the Top 1400 best-selling models
World Full Year 2015: Toyota best-selling manufacturer as VW backs off
World Full Year 2015: Total sales data available for 145 countries
World Full Year 2015: Discover the #1 models in 178 countries
World Full Year 2015: Toyota #1 in 90 markets vs. 20 for Volkswagen
World Full Year 2016: Discover the Top 1000 best-selling cars
World Full Year 2016: Volkswagen #1, outpaces Toyota despite “dieselgate”
World Full Year 2017: Discover the Top 1200 best-selling cars in the world
World Full Year 2017: Discover all the #1 models in 173 markets
World Full Year 2017: Discover Total Vehicle Sales for 145 markets
World Full Year 2018: Discover the Top 1300 best-selling cars
World Full Year 2018: Renault-Nissan, Toyota and Corolla snap top honours
World 2019: Discover the Top 1300 best-selling models
World 2019: Discover all the #1 models in 177 markets
World 2019: Total Vehicle Sales for 164 markets