Who's No. 1? Ford Says Focus, Toyota Says Corolla

DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- Ford ( F) said the Focus is the world's best-selling vehicle nameplate, while Toyota ( TM) said it's the Corolla.

The controversy began Wednesday after a Ford press release, citing data from Polk, declared that worldwide 2012 sales of the Focus totaled 1,020,410 units. Also, Ford said the Fiesta is the best-selling subcompact car, with 723,130 registrations in 2012.

"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, in a prepared statement. "Through One Ford, we're able to bring economies of scale and fantastic value to customers all around the world."

Following the Ford release, Toyota said Corolla was the world's top-selling car, according to Reuters .

Toyota's Tokyo-based spokesman Ryo Sakai said the Japanese carmaker sold 1.16 million Corollas in 2012 and that "Toyota still sees the Corolla as the world's most popular car," Reuters reported. The Corolla sedan accounted for 90% of the sales, Sakai said, with five other Corolla models accounting for the remaining 10%. Polk counted 872,774 Corolla sales, perhaps excluding the non-sedan units. .

"Toyota sold 1.16 million Corolla nameplate vehicles globally in 2012," Toyota spokesman Mike Michels said Monday, in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg. "Corolla registrations attributed to Polk come up short by nearly 300,000 units. This discrepancy is glaring and we have requested clarification."

Ford said that market gains for Focus were driven by consumer demand in China and the United States. It said that China registrations rose 51% last year and accounted for one in four global sales. U.S. Focus sales rose 40% to 245,922.

"Since its launch in China in late March of last year, Focus sales continue to strengthen, with the car now ranking as the best-selling passenger car in China in 2012 for the first time ever," Farley said. "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."

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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