Pickups continue to dominate the list, with larger SUVs showing up too.
Another year is in the books—good riddance to 2020—and that means end-of-year sales figures are out. Naturally, 2020 saw an overall dip compared to 2019, thanks to COVID-19 essentially bringing the entire industry to a halt in spring. The good news is that automakers saw a rebound by year’s end. It will likely be a few years until we see the same sort of total figures as 2019, but there’s reason for optimism heading into 2021.
We’ve combed over the lists from nearly every manufacturer to give you an over-arching view of which models were the big winners this year. We’ve also split out cars into their own list, reflecting the market’s increased focus on trucks and utilities. Read on for the full ranking of the best-selling SUVs and trucks of 2020.
Editor’s Note: At the time of writing, detailed 2020 reports were not available from Daimler, Jaguar Land Rover, Porsche, and Volvo. As none of these were likely to affect the rankings, we’ve gone ahead and published, but will update if any surprises arise.
Toyota’s rough-and-tumble, body-on-frame kicks off the list, selling 129,052 units. The venerable model saw one of the smallest drops versus its 2019 figure, only dipping 2 percent. Talk about reliable.
Yes, Ford’s big van makes the cut, despite a 15 percent dip over its 2019 figures. Huge—and hugely practical—the Transit is the go-to for commercial needs.
Jeep has taken a two-pronged approach to the compact crossover segment, with this Cherokee and the slightly smaller Compass. The Cherokee is the bigger seller, though it was hit particularly hard during 2020. Sales dropped 29 percent year-on-year, the second-largest drop on this list.
We really like the Mazda CX-5. It’s a fun, good-looking compact SUV. It remains a bit player in the fiercely competitive segment, but saw a smaller year-on-year dip than most of the others on this list.
Subaru keeps climbing its way up the best-seller lists. Up first is the Outback, which was previously the top contender for the Japanese brand. Unfortunately for it, a 15 percent dip saw it give up the crown, but back-to-back results are hardly a bad thing…
The Forester is now the best-selling Subaru in America, totalling just shy of 177,000 units in 2020. A dip of less than 2 percent cemented its spot here. Buyers continue to flock to the brand thanks to its standard all-wheel drive (barring the BRZ sports car).
2020 saw an unfortunate trend for vehicles that debuted brand new generations for the year, like the Escape. Right as they were meant to start selling in big numbers, the global pandemic hit the brakes. The Escape didn’t, er, escape this fate, seeing its figures drop a full 26 percent year-over-year. It’s more car-like than the model it replaced, making room in the Ford lineup for the Bronco Sport.
The Jeep Wrangler continues to be a cash cow for the brand. It sold over 200,000 units for another year, even after a 12 percent loss from 2019. What remains to be seen is how Ford’s Bronco will eat into those numbers in 2021, when the Wrangler no longer has the market to itself.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee held on as the brand’s best-seller for another year. That’s a remarkable feat for a model entering a decade of production. It’s no longer the best-selling mid-size SUV, but with a new model set to debut this week, we wouldn’t bet against it regaining the crown.
The Highlander had a slightly different best-seller title than the preceding Grand Cherokee last year: it was the top three-row SUV. It sits in second place for that particular fight this year, not just because of a 11 percent decrease year-on-year, but a surge by its competitor. Nearly one in every four Highlanders sold is a hybrid model.
Year-over-year decreases are the story of the year, so Ford must be all too happy to see the Explorer posting a 22 percent increase over 2019. It’s enough to earn the title of best-selling three-row crossover. The Explorer hasn’t had an easy year, however, with a constant stream of recalls.
The Nissan Rogue earns the ignominious honor of the biggest loser of this list, shedding 35 percent of its 2019 total. We get it: the previous-generation model was a pretty forgettable ride. The 2021 Rogue (pictured above), on the other hand, is a vastly more impressive rig, and should turn around the model’s fortunes in 12 months time.
Nearly a quarter-million people were ready for Taco Time this year. Toyota’s venerable mid-size pickup is far and away the best-seller in its segment, even with the expected pandemic-related dip in sales (down 5 percent). It actually sold more than Toyota’s Corolla, which is a big sign of how market tastes have shifted in the last decade.
When combined, GM’s pickups are the best-selling trucks on the market. Splitting them up into their two respective brands is still enough for the GMC Sierra to net seventh here. Both the Silverado and Sierra saw total sales increase by the end of 2020, with the GMC picking up 9 percent.
People might rag on vanilla ice cream, but that stuff sells. Same, too, for the Chevrolet Equinox. Thank affordable pricing and lots of practicality. It’s far and away the General’s best-selling non-pickup, even after dropping 22 percent year-on-year. From here the gaps start to get much bigger.
The CR-V developed some clean air between it and the Equinox this year. Both models saw smaller tallies than 2019, but the Honda only shed 13 percent of its year-end figure. A hybrid model arrived on the scene for 2020 as part of a line-wide facelift.
The RAV4 dominated the non-pickup portion of the market this year. Sales were down slightly, but we’re still talking well over 400,000 copies of the compact crossover. Toyota offers the RAV4 in many flavors, from the TRD Off-Road model, numerous hybrids, and now the faster, more powerful plug-in Prime.
Thanks to a class-leading interior, the Ram pickup lineup was able to secure second place last year. The global pandemic ate into its total this year though, slicing 11 percent off its total. Not even the wild, laugh-out-loud fun of the TRX model could balance the scales.
As we mentioned before, the GM pickups both saw sales increase versus 2019. The Silverado total bumped up 3 percent; combined with the Ram’s dip, it was enough for the Bow Tie model to lock in second place. There’s still more than an Escape’s worth of units to catch first, though…
Look, we all knew which model would top the list. It’s as sure as the sun rising every morning. The F-Series may have had the largest drop amongst the pickups on this list (12 percent), but it wasn’t enough to let others even get close. A whole new model debuted at the tail of 2020 too, so don’t expect any surprises next year either.