America’s Best-Selling Cars

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While September sales were off slightly from last year, the U.S. auto industry is up more than 8% for the year. However, success relies heavily on the popularity of just a few models. Of the nearly 12 million units sold so far, this year’s top 10 models alone have sold more than 2.9 million units. The Ford (NYSE: F) F-Series and GM’s (NYSE: GM) Chevrolet Silverado, the two top-selling models, are up more than 20%.

Car data site TrueCar.com provided 24/7 Wall St. with a list of the top-selling cars through the first nine months of the year. As has been the case for years, Ford’s F-Series leads the way with well more than half a million units already sold this year. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed this year’s 10 best-selling models.

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Not surprisingly, most of largest automakers have multiple cars among the top-sellers. Ford has three separate vehicles in the top 10, as does Honda (NYSE: HMC), while Toyota (NYSE: TM) has two. Nissan and General Motors — through Chevrolet — have one model each.

The top-selling cars this year remain basically unchanged compared to 2012. The one exception is the Ford Fusion, which moved from 11th in 2012 into the top 10, and it is already close to matching its 2012 totals. The Ford Focus fell from 10th to 13th.

Compared to two years ago, the list of the top cars has changed a bit more. Vehicles like the Hyundai Sonata have fallen well out of the top 10. At the same time, models like the Honda Civic and the Honda CR-V have seen substantial growth. In 2011, the Honda CR-V was the 12th best-selling car. Through the first nine months of this year, it is eighth.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., TrueCar senior analyst Jesse Toprak explained that the CR-V’s improvement is indicative of a trend in the U.S. market. “We are seeing that the small SUV segment has been the fastest-growing category in the past three years.” The CR-V has benefited from that growth.

Several of the top-selling cars have been the most popular for decades. The F-series, for example, has been the top-selling truck in the United States for more than 30 years. Toprak explained that this is in part because people tend to buy models based on their long-term brand familiarity and popularity. “The top 10 have one thing in common,” he added. “They’re no-brainers. They’re all safe choices.”

Brand loyalty — buyers opting to purchase the same model as they currently own — is also keeping these cars consistently popular. “The number one indicator of what you’re going to buy next is what you own today,” Toprak explained. “Because these vehicles have been top sellers for decades, they have the built-in advantage to have more clients come back to them.” He added that while less popular or new models must truly stand out to gain market share, these top models only need to avoid big problems to stay on top.

Based on U.S. model sales provided by TrueCar from January through September 2013, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the best-selling cars of the year. TrueCar also provided 24/7 Wall St. with full-year model sales for both 2011 and 2012. We also reviewed base manufacturer’s suggested retail price and car type from the manufacturer’s websites. All U.S. total car sales change figures are for cars and light trucks.

These are America’s best-selling cars of 2013.