Ford F-150, Honda Accord earn top sales crowns in 2011

(December 24, 2011) SANTA MONICA, Calif. — The Ford F-150 is the top-selling new vehicle of 2011, while the Honda Accord is the best selling used car of the year, reports's review of 2011 car sales also found that the Nissan Leaf flew off dealer lots faster than any other vehicle this year, and that Saab offered the best discounts to consumers in 2011, even as the brand fought to delay its inevitable demise.

"History will remember 2011 as a resilient year for the auto industry," said Chief Economist Lacey Plache. "Both automakers and consumers faced down a range of economic obstacles throughout 2011, and even as sales slumped dramatically through the summer, the industry battled back to finish strong and with momentum going into 2012."

New car and truck sales this year are expected to come in to around 12.8 million vehicles, a healthy improvement over the 11.6 million vehicles sold in 2010. As was the case last year, the Ford F-150 is poised to take home the new vehicle sales crown for 2011, holding off its top competitor Chevy Silverado 1500. The Toyota Camry once again held the top spot as the best-selling new car in 2011, while the Nissan Altima and Ford Escape round out the list of the top five selling vehicles.

2011 Best-Selling New and Used Car Models (through November)

Rank New Car Models Used Car Models
1 Ford F-150 Honda Accord
2 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Ford F-150
3 Toyota Camry Toyota Camry
4 Nissan Altima Chevrolet Silverado 1500
5 Ford Escape Honda Civic
6 Honda Accord Toyota Corolla
7 Ford Fusion Nissan Altima
8 Chevrolet Cruze Chevrolet Impala
9 Toyota Corolla Dodge Ram Pickup 1500
10 Hyundai Sonata BMW 3 Series

"There are a lot of 'usual suspects' on 2011's best-selling new cars list, but two vehicles that don't appear in the top ten — the Honda Civic and the Honda CR-V — are the real story this year," said Senior Analyst Michelle Krebs. "The Civic and CR-V are two powerhouses in their segments and they suffered the most from short supply and subsequent high prices following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March. Look for these two vehicles to regain at least some of their footing in the U.S. in 2012."

Despite Honda's well-documented setbacks in the new car market this year the automaker did not miss a beat in the used car market. The Honda Accord repeated last year's title as the top-selling used car in America. The Honda Civic also held firm at #5. The F-150, Camry and Silverado 1500 also maintained their places in the top five.

Every year there are some cars that dealers just can't sell fast enough. tracks these vehicles with its Days-to-Turn (DTT) metric, which discloses how long it takes a car to be sold once it hits the dealer lots. In 2011, the vehicle with the shortest DTT was the electric Nissan Leaf, which had just an average 11-day shelf life at Nissan dealerships. Another green vehicle — the Lexus CT 200h — also worked to keep up with demand: the luxury hybrid hatchback averaged just 14 days to turn since it became available to consumers in March.

"With gas prices peaking at almost $4 a gallon earlier this year, it shouldn't be much of a surprise that an electric vehicle and a hybrid were the two hottest vehicles of 2011," said Analyst Ivan Drury. "Gas prices probably had a lot to do with the Hyundai Elantra appearing high on this list, too. Lots of consumers who couldn't afford a hybrid or EV turned to small, fuel-efficient cars when it looked like gas prices were spiraling upward."

Models with Lowest Average Days to Turn (DTT) — Jan-Nov 2011

Rank Model Average DTT
1 Nissan Leaf 11
2 Lexus CT 200h 14
3 BMW X3 15
4 Audi Q5 16
5 Hyundai Elantra 17
6 Porsche Cayenne 19
7 Audi Q7 19
8 BMW X5 19
9 Chevrolet Equinox 20
10 Honda Odyssey 21
  Industry 52

Luxury brands dominated the list of the hottest-selling vehicles, claiming six of the top eight spots with an average DTT all under 20 days. The average 2011 DTT industry-wide through November was 52 days.

Swedish automotive brand Saab came into the year hanging by a thread. But before that thread snapped earlier this week, Saab made a strong effort to win buyers by offering the biggest average discounts off MSRP (14.33 percent) of any automotive brand this year. Even with the push on, discounts Saab managed to sell just 5,300 vehicles through November.

Auto Brands with Highest Discount Percent

Rank Make Average of Discount off MSRP*
1 Saab 14.33%
2 Chevrolet 13.87%
3 Dodge 13.87%
4 Ford 13.77%
5 Nissan 13.54%
6 Lincoln 13.50%
7 Chrysler 13.26%
8 Buick 12.61%
9 Infiniti 12.53%
10 GMC 12.15%
  Industry 11.60%

U.S. automakers maintained their reputation this year as the most incentives-oriented brands, claiming seven of the ten highest average discount percentages. Dodge (13.87%), Chevrolet (13.87%) and Ford (13.77%) were all in the top four spots. For the industry as a whole, car buyers saved an average of 11.6 percent off MSRP this year, down from 13.3 percent in 2010.

At the other end of the spectrum, foreign makes comprised the list of lowest average discounts in 2011. Fiat re-emerged in the U.S. market this year, and shoppers looking to drive the same car as Jennifer Lopez had little to no chance paying much less than the MSRP, with the average discount at just 0.45 percent. Scion (3.31%), Porsche (3.63%), and smart (4.53%) followed with the least flexibility on discounts.

Auto Brands with Lowest Discount Percent

Rank Make Average of Discount off MSRP*
1 Fiat 0.45%
2 Scion 3.31%
3 Porsche 3.63%
4 smart 4.53%
5 MINI 5.44%
6 Audi 5.54%
7 Land Rover 5.64%
8 Volkswagen 5.96%
9 Subaru 6.84%
10 Hyundai 6.96%
  Industry 11.60%

*Includes incentives