Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

Gone in 100 Seconds: The Fastest-Selling Cars in America

Here's what America's most popular cars tell us about the state of the industry.

We've got self-driving cars, space-age minivans, and electric dream cruisers—but we're still buying the same vehicles, year after year.

The top 11 best-selling models in the U.S. this year collectively accounted for roughly one out of every four vehicles that rolled out of dealerships.

Call it the 100-second club: At least one of each of these 11 models was purchased at least every 100 seconds. Nissan's Rogue just made the cut, at 98 seconds, while Ford's Escape just missed it, at 101 seconds.

Here's the full list.

  1. Ford F-150 (39.7 seconds)
  2. Chevrolet Silverado (55.6)
  3. Ram pickup (65.6)
  4. Toyota Camry (79.6)
  5. Toyota Corolla (81.9)
  6. Honda Civic (83.4)
  7. Honda CR-V (89.8)
  8. Toyota RAV4 (90.9)
  9. Honda Accord (91.5)
  10. Nissan Altima (97.9)
  11. Nissan Rogue (98)

Unit sales are often only distantly linked to profit, but the 100-second club underscores three somewhat surprising things about today's auto business.

  1. Car consumers seem to be getting more conservative. From January through September, while the U.S. auto industry overall slowed a bit, sales of the top 11 models rose by 2.8 percent from the same period last year. Buyers are consolidating at the top. The car, once a source of passion and prestige, is becoming a more utilitarian commodity. Maybe someday, we'll all be riding around in pods from Apple. Today, we're increasingly driving Camrys and Ford pickups.
  2. The sedan isn't quite dead yet. Five of the top 11 models are old-fashioned cars—ones that have four doors and don't purport to climb boulder fields. Honda's Civic even managed a 14 percent sales spike, compared with the first 10 months of last year. Meanwhile, only three SUVs have cracked the 100-second club 1 .
  3. A new car is still a sizable purchase for nearly all buyers, and they care less about getting their decisions absolutely right than they do about not getting them wrong. There's safety in the herd of Hondas. Ford has only one model, the F-150, in the 100-second club. But it sits at the very top of the list, while three other Ford models—the Escape, Fusion, and Explorer—have come close to breaking through. Without pickup trucks, General Motors and Fiat-Chrysler would be missing. 

As consumers begin to tap the brakes on buying cars, it will be critical for auto makers to have models they can choose without much thought. The 100-second club is about to become more important than ever. 

  1. In part because there are so many different varieties.

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