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Ford Focus is the world's best-selling auto

Ford's increasing focus on global small cars apparently is paying off. Make that the Ford Focus which was the world’s best-selling automobile overall last year, according to new data from R.L. Polk & Company.

The Detroit maker’s compact model rang up more than 1 million sales last year, almost 17 percent more volume than Toyota recorded for its traditional sales leader, the compact Corolla model. Ford also scored at the other extreme, its big F-Series pickups collectively coming in third on the global sales list. In all, Ford landed three different models in the Top 10, including the sixth-ranked Fiesta subcompact.

Toyota and Honda each had two models on the Polk chart, while Volkswagen and General Motors’ Chevrolet brand each had one. But the Top 10 list also included a new name likely not recognizable to most Westerners: China’s Wuling Zhiguang which generated 768,870 sales, landing just behind the F-Series in fourth place.

“Focus and Fiesta represent the culmination of our One Ford global product strategy,” said Jim Farley, Ford executive vice president for global marketing, sales and service and the head of its Lincoln brand.

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While Focus saw a 40 percent jump in U.S. demand last year, Ford’s late push into China helped Focus surge to the top of the sales charts last year, with volume of 1,020,410. It only went on sale in what is now the world’s largest automotive market in March 2012. Yet that market snapped up 300,000 of the Ford compacts last year – where it is sold in both the current version and as a prior-generation model known as the Focus “Classic.”

Looking forward to Ford’s aggressive Chinese expansion plans, said Farley, “With additional manufacturing capacity added last year, we now have a tremendous opportunity to further strengthen our global small car sales in 2013, with sales off to a very strong start already.”

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Toyota’s second-place finish, with sales of 872,774, still underscores the power of its Corolla model, especially considering it is set for a complete redesign later this year. A prototype, dubbed the Furia, was unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show in January and Toyota officials recently hinted that the production version will be introduced before the Los Angeles Auto Show next autumn.

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The fact that the Ford F-Series only came in third might surprise some Americans considering its continued strength in the U.S., where it has routinely heads the sales charts as both best-selling truck and best-selling vehicle overall for decades. But the U.S. was responsible for the vast majority of the full-size pickup’s volume of 785,630 last year.

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The F-Series is a real standout on the Polk Top 10 sales chart as the only classic truck on the list. In fact, the vast majority of the top-selling products are compacts and subcompacts, with the Toyota Camry, ranked fifth, the only midsize offering.

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As for the Wuling Zhiguang, it’s a pintsized people-mover barely the size of some of the sedans and hatchbacks on the Top 10 chart. Wuling is part of a joint venture between General Motors and its Chinese partner, Shanghai-based SAIC. '

Here’s the complete Top 10 list:

  1. Ford Focus — 1,020,410
  2. Toyota Corolla — 872,774
  3. Ford F-Series — 785,630
  4. Wuling Zhiguang — 768,870
  5. Toyota Camry — 729,793
  6. Ford Fiesta — 723,130
  7. VW Golf — 699,148
  8. Chevrolet Cruze — 661,325
  9. Honda Civic — 651,159
  10. Honda CR-V — 624,982