By Sean Tucker
Americans bought fewer than 15 million cars in 2021, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The second full year of the COVID-19 pandemic was remarkable, not for poor sales but missed sales. Flush with cash in an economic recovery and newly vaccinated, Americans headed out to car dealerships to find…a lot of empty space.
A world-wide microchip shortage and other supply chain crises left automakers unable to build cars as fast as buyers snapped them up. Before the pandemic hit, Americans consistently bought 17 million cars or more every year. For the last two, we’ve bought less than 15 million.
The cars we did buy changed little. The bestsellers list includes most of the usual suspects, with only a few minor surprises. The same vehicle has held the sales title for more than 40 years, but there’s a new silver medalist. And a Tesla /zigman2/quotes/203558040/composite TSLA +0.44% snuck into the top 20 for the first time.
Let’s break them down. Stray sales reports are still trickling in, so these numbers are subject to change slightly. But we don’t expect late reports significant enough to change the order.
The bestselling vehicles of 2021:
1. Ford F-150 : 726,004 sold
For the 44th consecutive year, Ford’s /zigman2/quotes/208911460/composite F +1.64% big F-series truck took home the gold. Its hold on the title was briefly threatened as it slipped to second place in the second quarter. But that likely happened because, short on microchips, Ford couldn’t build enough to keep up with demand. All-new for 2021, the Ford F-150 is KBB’s Best Buy Award Winner in the full-size truck category. In 2022, it gets an electric version, the F-150 Lightning, to help boost the big truck’s sales numbers even as many Americans go for more efficient electric vehicles.
2. Ram 1500: 569,388 sold
Ram’s big truck has reliably taken third place on the podium in recent years. But it slid into second in 2021. That happened, in part, because Ram did a better job keeping its production numbers up even as other automakers struggled to get enough microchips to keep building. But it’s partly a testament to the Ram’s livability, thanks to excellent entertainment options and abundant storage.
3. Chevy Silverado: 519,774 sold
GM’s /zigman2/quotes/205226835/composite GM +0.31% big truck settled for the bronze after a string of silvers. But there’s always an asterisk on its numbers. GM sells its full-size truck under two names. The Silverado and the GMC Sierra are essentially two trim levels of the same vehicle. Treated as one, the two outsold even the F-150. So the Silverado can keep a chip on its shoulder about its third-place finish.
4. Toyota RAV4: 407,739 sold
Full-size trucks always take the top 3 slots, but Americans buy more SUVs than cars and trucks combined. Manufacturers just offer SUVs in far more variety, so it’s hard for one to claim many sales. Building the bestselling SUV, therefore, is a truly impressive feat. America’s favorite SUV remains Toyota’s /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM +1.62% reliable compact crossover. It’s KBB’s Best Buy Award Winner among compact SUVs.
5. Honda CR-V: 361,271 sold
Honda’s /zigman2/quotes/207173990/composite HMC +0.76% small SUV is close enough to the RAV4 that choosing between them is mostly a matter of taste. Nearly as many buyers went for the Honda’s peppy engine and lasts-a-generation reliability.
6. Toyota Camry: 313,795 sold
Americans buy fewer sedans than trucks these days. But plenty of Americans still see what they need in a reliable 4-door car, and for 20 straight years, Toyota’s midsize option has fit the bill for more buyers than any of its rivals.
7. Nissan Rogue: 285,602 sold
Nissan /zigman2/quotes/207656007/delayed NSANY -0.19% introduced a redesigned Rogue in 2021, and the effort paid off. In 2022, they’re swapping a more efficient engine into the same successful model, so the Rogue may creep up further on the RAV4 and CR-V.
8. Jeep Grand Cherokee: 264,444 sold
The iconic midsize SUV got a complete redesign for the 2022 model year. But the 2021 model it replaced was selling well even before the improvements came. The new model’s sharp looks and upscale interior along with a new 3-row L version should help it keep its place as the bestselling midsize SUV this year.
9. Toyota Highlander: 264,128 sold
Toyota’s midsize 3-row SUV has a well-earned reputation for dependability and comfort. It starts at a higher price than most rivals, but that didn’t faze many buyers last year.
10. Honda Civic: 263,787 sold
This quintessential small car always sells well. But a brand new Civic for 2022 should make this year even better than last for Honda. It’s KBB’s Best Buy Award Winner in the compact car segment.
11. Toyota Tacoma: 252,520 sold
KBB’s Best Buy Award Winner in its field, the Tacoma runs away with the midsize truck category.
12. Toyota Corolla: 248,993 sold
How solid is the Corolla’s place in American culture? Toyota sold its 50 millionth Corolla last year.
13. GMC Sierra: 248,924 sold
Here’s the second sales number for GM’s big truck. An updated Sierra is coming for the 2022 model year, with an improved interior and a bold new look.
14. Ford Explorer: 219,871
Ford’s classic midsize SUV can be bought as a flexible family hauler, an off-road specialist, a sporty SUV, or an efficient hybrid. That versatility worked for a lot of Americans in 2021.
15. Jeep Wrangler: 204,609 sold
Until 2021, it was easy to say there was nothing else like the Jeep Wrangler on the market. Now, it has a real open-top, off-road rival in the Ford Bronco . But that didn’t knock the Wrangler off its perch.
16. Honda Accord: 202,676 sold
KBB’s Best Buy Award Winner among affordable midsize cars, the Accord has stayed in the top 20 for more than 30 years.
17. Tesla Model Y: 178,732 sold
This marks the first time an electric car has slipped into the top 20. But it almost certainly won’t be the last. Manufacturers are introducing dozens of new EVs in 2022. Tesla started 2021 with nearly no competition. It starts 2022 with rivals in nearly every manufacturer.
18. Mazda CX-5: 168,448 sold
Mazda /zigman2/quotes/206326885/delayed MZDAY +0.35% launches an effort to remake its SUV lineup in 2022. The company is known for SUVs that are great on the road but will launch more off-road-oriented alternatives this year, like the CX-50. That may bring in new buyers, but the CX-5 already had enough fans to crack the 2021 top 20.
19. Chevy Equinox: 165,323 sold
Chevy’s small crossover has less cargo room than the RAV4 or CR-V and no hybrid option. But it found a home in a lot of driveways in 2021, anyway. Recently, Chevy announced plans for an electric version of the Equinox by the end of 2023.
Read next : 10 top cars of the year
20. Subaru Forester: 154,723 sold
Full-size trucks may get all three podium places, but Americans clearly love compact SUVs. The Forester is the seventh one on this list. Known for its symmetrical all-wheel-drive system and remarkable space for its small footprint, Subaru’s /zigman2/quotes/200526066/delayed FUJHY +0.06% Forester rounded up the top 20 bestsellers in a rough year for the auto industry.