Ford Focus tops Toyota Corolla as world's most popular car

Ford Focus has overtaken its Japanese rival, the Toyota Corolla, at the top of the global sales charts. The company sold over one million units of its Ford focus last year.

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    A Ford Focus is on display at a car dealership in San Jose, Calif. By the end of 2012, Ford sold a total of 1,020,410 units of its Ford Focus.
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Ford sold over one million examples of its Focus last year.

That alone is impressive, but there's deeper meaning to the high sales statistic--for the first time, the Focus has overtaken its Japanese rival, the Toyota Corolla, at the top of the global sales charts.

Thanks to the U.S. and Corolla-loving eastern markets, the Japanese compact is a familiar face on top-seller lists, but one market in particular has really helped Ford knock the Corolla into second place--China.

According to The Detroit News, Ford sold almost 300,000 Focus in China last year, after the latest model debuted in March. Ford also still sells the old Focus in China, badged "Classic" Focus. 

By the end of 2012, Ford sold a total of 1,020,410 Focus, to Toyota's 872,774 Corollas--quite a winning margin. Ford even beat itself into third place, with the F-Series truck selling 785,630 examples worldwide.

As if to highlight the importance of the burgeoning Chinese car market to automakers, fourth spot was taken by a model few outside China will have heard of--the Wuling Sunsine.

Despite its joyful name, the Sunshine is simply a basic 7-seat minivan with a range of small engines and very little in the way of features--but it's typical of the sort of vehicles popular throughout East Asia, and at 768,870 units, the highest-selling car you've never heard of.

Other best-sellers included the Toyota Camry, Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf, Chevrolet Cruze, Honda Civic and Honda CR-V--all of which passed the 600,000 mark.

Will the Corolla take back its highest-selling crown when the new version is launched next year? Perhaps, but we'd not bet against the Focus topping the 2013 list before then.

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