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How Many Different Models Of Car Are There?

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I was in a meeting with some top-tier members of the automotive media, and a curious question arose. How many different models of car have ever been made? The number would surely be great, but… just how high could it possibly be? Could we even know the answer? How would you even go about finding it?

Today, we have access to the vast breadth of human knowledge, which sits just a few clicks away. And yet, there are still some questions that you can’t answer simply by heading to Google. This question is one of them; indeed, it’s kind of hard to answer at all! Let’s examine why.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

For a start, what exactly is a “model” of car? Is the Ford Falcon a single model of car? Surely the latter case falls apart when manufacturers use the same name for completely different cars built in different eras or countries, right? So perhaps each generation of a car is its own model. But then, you get questions around a car like the Volkswagen Golf. Sure, you can say an Mk 8 Golf is a different model from the Mk 7, but what about the Mk 8.5?

The question gets complex around special editions and cars that are heavily modified for homologation or other reasons. Consider the Toyota GR Yaris. A Yaris by name, yes, and yet the body shell is actually a mashup with the Corolla to become it’s own unique thing. Is that a separate model? What about when Mercury used to build fancy versions of a Ford? How different do they have to be to qualify?

Take those questions, and spread them over the multitude of cars from all automakers you can think of. You’re going to be busy researching for some time… and as you’re doing so, more cars keep coming out!

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Screenshot 2024 01 16 145219
It’s generally easy enough to figure out how many models an automaker is selling in a given year, but even Mazda kind of flubbed when it had to cram the Millennia into this brochure last-minute. Extend the problem to “all of automotive history” and it’s even harder to answer.

Then you’ve got to consider the automakers you haven’t thought of. The multitude of Chinese manufacturers, in which some of the historic ones seem like loose collections of factories under government control. Then there’s Russian manufacturers, a whole bunch you’ve never heard of from Eastern Europe, and also the Middle East. I’d never heard of Iran Khodro until two months ago and yet they build over a million cars a year. And it raises a great example of how difficult this question is: would you classify the Peugeot Pars as a variant of the Peugeot 405, or its own car entirely?

Oh, and don’t forget to look up tiny manufacturers like Ginetta or TVR or DeLorean that, at times have built just a handful of cars per year, often with heavy changes made from vehicle to vehicle.

Access 1962 Ford Family Of Fine Cars Neg C1079 2
Automakers used to love “family” shots of their models back in the day, like this photo of the “1962 Ford Family of Fine Cars.”

You can take shortcuts by glancing at a list of car models on Wikipedia or other similar resources, but those lists are generally incomplete. The best shot at this might be to scrape vehicle registration data from around the world. You’re not going to get perfect answers, particularly from the earlier years of motoring when records were scant and manufacturers many. But you’d get somewhere at least.

In any case, I decided to have a punt and just try and figure out how many Ford models there have been. I ignored different generations and body styles and just focused on the nameplates over the years. I got around 28 currently in production, which in itself has some flaws. For example, Ford lumps all F-Series trucks together under one model, even if most of us would consider an F-150 and F-250 and F-350 to all be distinct. I also considered the F-150 Lightning and Explorer EV unique to the F-150 and Explorer due to their distinct engineering. Going back through all of Ford’s history, I counted 159, including badge-engineered models like the old Ford Maverick (Nissan Patrol) and Ford Festiva (Mazda 121). In a total count of all models ever, you’d have to pull those out.

Here’s where we’ll throw it over to you. How many different models of cars are there? Feel free to take a wild guess, or alternatively, get really mathy about it and show your working. You can even try Fermi Estimation if you want to generate a convincing-if-imperfect answer. Here’s hoping we can solve this beguiling problem once and for all.

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Image credits: Ford, Mazda, Nissan

 

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Ron888
Ron888
1 month ago

It didnt take me too long before my mind wandered from the task to how long would it take if it actually could be done??

Theotherotter
Theotherotter
2 months ago

It’s news to me that a Nissan Patrol was ever sold as a Ford Maverick. The only non-US Mavericks I knew of were the Nissan Terrano variant in the early 90s and the Euro version of the US Ford Escape. This makes five entirely different vehicles sold as a Maverick (US compact car, 1970s; Nissan Terrano-based small SUV, Europe, 1990s; Ford Escape variant, Europe and other markets, 2000s; Nissan Patrol variant, Aus; small Escape-based SUV, Europe and other markets; small Escape-based truck, North America, 2020s.)

Last edited 2 months ago by Theotherotter
Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
2 months ago

Not even gonna speculate how many models of vehicles there are- somewhere in the thousands…what’s driving me crazy is reading the comments…I thought it was common sense that the model is whatever comes after the make- so as far as counting it, keep it simple:
-Chevy Silverado=1 (OK, done!)
-Ford F-Series=1 (To me they count as only 1 since they’re all the same!)
-Dodge Ram=1
-Now that RAM is it’s own make, now the model is 1500, etc=1
ETC ETC ETC
-If it has it’s own name like Ford Ranger, then that’s 1 model
-The Toyota Hilux is it’s own and then Toyota “truck” is it’s own since it didn’t have a model name- that was it
-obviously some exceptions like the old Ford Maverick as a car is it’s own and now that it’s a truck it’s separate and counts as 1
Basically, it’s how you look it up for parts- each model is it’s own
I don’t know why it drives me crazy, just OCD or something- just thought it was a given

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
2 months ago

(Carry the two)
(ignore the other two)
6,070,196.
Easy.

Parsko
Parsko
2 months ago

41

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
2 months ago
Reply to  Parsko

Ok, you win—even if only because I came back three times wanting to go
-2!

sentinelTk
sentinelTk
2 months ago

Real question is whether McLaren and Bugatti’s “editions” are different models or not. If so, pretty sure the number increases by like 40%….

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
2 months ago

I’d say about three fiddy.
This is where gifs and pics attached work.

sentinelTk
sentinelTk
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

*GIF of Captain America, maskless, turning to Bruce Banner and Tony Stark and saying, “I understood that reference.”

Fuzzyweis
Fuzzyweis
2 months ago

Is this a test to cause the AI to fail, like in Star Trek’s “I, Mudd”?
I love the Dodge Neon, but I HATE the Plymouth Neon…”But, we are identical.”

Racer Esq.
Racer Esq.
2 months ago

I think various countries’ approval records are going to be the best bet for recent history. But that only goes back to the late ’60s (there were no US federal standards for a car before 1968). Before that it was anarchy and registrations are probably going to be the best approximation.

Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore
2 months ago

Countably finite, until you reach the Chinese market. Then you probably need quantum computing to figure the rest out.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
2 months ago

That’s a lot of work. Maybe that guy from Quantum Leap knows how this can be figured out?

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
2 months ago

I like to think of myself as the Linnæus of cars, and I know that numbering them is a futile endeavor. What is interesting is creating the taxonomy.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
2 months ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

Ok, but, whatinhell are you going to use for a board, where will you store that many pins—aren’t you going to be attracting some rather strange attention when you order that much yarn??

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
2 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Yep. Buying green felt by the acre is also expensive.

Ron888
Ron888
1 month ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

That would make a cool chart.If you do it i promise i’ll read most of it!

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago

Okay…… For me, whether it’s the same model or not depends mostly on how many parts are interchangeable. F250 and f350 are the same model because almost everything but the springs is identical, but the f150 is separate because literally 0 parts are interchangeable. This is reflected in Ford’s Super Duty model designation being separate from the f150.

The biggest issue I see here is that the term “model” has a very different definition than it once did. You ever wonder why Car and Driver and other misguided publications talk about the SXT model, when Dodge Dart is clearly the model and SXT is the trim level? That’s because in the US prior to about 1960, each manufacturer made one model of car. The Ford, the Chevrolet, the Dodge, the Buick, ect. Then there was like 8 trim levels of fullsize Ford, each with their own name. Ford Galaxie, Ford Crown Victoria, ect. Trim levels were called models, and each manufacturers model lineup was actually just the trim levels they offered on their one car.

Of course, what I just said is not completely accurate. The different trim levels often had completely different and non-interchangeable interiors, exterior trim, and sometimes different body panels.

So is a 1957 fullsize Ford Custom 300 a different model from a 1957 fullsize Ford Fairlane?

Our modern understanding of make, model, year, trim level started in 1960 when the Falcon, Valiant, and Corvair marked the beginning of each big manufacturer making more than one model of car.

This is closely related to the generation debate-what counts as a new generation? There are definitely not like 6 generations of Dodge Viper. The new 2023+ Ford facelift pickups are definitely not a 14th generation, even though Ford and Wikipedia think so. Conversely, the 7th, 8th, and 9th generation Ford pickups could definitely be considered all the same generation: they all share the same engine options, cab and doors, chassis and suspension, and while the interior and front end are different on each, they are interchangeable.

So in general: two cars do not have to have the same name to be the same model. Ford Festiva and Ford Aspire are the same model.
Two cars do have to have a large degree of commonality to be the same model, especially structural and mechanical commonality. GR Yaris and regular Yaris are not the same model.
Different generations of the same model are the same model, as long as they actually are generations of the same model. 2007 Grand Caravan is the same model as 2008 Grand Caravan, but 2022 Ford Bronco is not the same model as 1996 Ford Bronco, or 1966 Ford Bronco.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
2 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Problem is that the change is often gradual. A Lancia Delta 1.3 LX shares very few parts with a Delta Integrale 16V, but if we consider the HF Turbo and all of the other intermediate models then the relation becomes clear.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

Yes, I should have made that more clear. A 1950 CJ2 is the same model as a 2024 Wrangler despite sharing no parts, because along the progression of Jeeps there has never been a generation change that didn’t have considerable parts commonality.

Captain Zoll
Captain Zoll
2 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

wouldn’t the TJ to JK wrangler be a substantial jump?

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago
Reply to  Captain Zoll

That’s a bigger jump, but the TJ and the JK do share the general chassis and suspension design, and a pretty close overall look and capability.

If a change in engine options was enough to make it a different model on its own, then that would have happened much prior. There were a lot of engine changes through the 50s and 60s before mostly settling in the AMC straight six in 1971.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
2 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

“So is a 1957 fullsize Ford Custom 300 a different model from a 1957 fullsize Ford Fairlane?”

For anyone not familiar with this specific example, they’re not the same size. For 1957 the Custom/Custom 300 has a wheelbase of 116″ whereas the Fairlane/Fairlane 500 has a wheelbase of 118″ and overall its body is six inches longer. Most of their smaller pieces will interchange, true, and they look a lot like each other, but fundamentally their frames and bodies are not the same.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

I’m not familiar with this specific example, I just pulled out some names, so thank you for the input.

Good to know that they don’t actually have interchangeable and identical bodies and frames, although that does not necessarily stop them from being the same model. A 750i is definitely the same model as a 750iL, and a short bed Ram 1500 is definitely the same model as long bed Ram 1500. For this purpose at least, I will consider different length versions of the same frame to be the same frame. As in, Jeep Gladiator frame is longer and as such not actually interchangeable with a Wrangler, but a Gladiator is on a Wrangler frame.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
2 months ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

Or Ford Fairlane, Fairlane 500, and Fairlane station wagon all the same or different?

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

The names Fairlane and Fairlane 500 were both used in 1957 but not for the station wagons. Those were called the Country Sedan, Country Squire, Ranch Wagon, and Del Rio [Ranch Wagon], or, to include the sedan delivery variant, the Courier.

Racer Esq.
Racer Esq.
2 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

I probably agree that the F150 and F250/F350 are different because of the front clips and frames, but:

F250 and f350 are the same model because almost everything but the springs is identical, but the f150 is separate because literally 0 parts are interchangeable.”

They all share the same cab, that’s a lot of interchangeable parts.

I am referring to the current generations, I know historically this was not the case for a while.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
2 months ago
Reply to  Racer Esq.

Exactly original f150 VS modern f150, mustang VS the70s pinto mustang VS today mustang EV.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago
Reply to  Racer Esq.

Until 1997, the f150, f250, f350, and up shared the same cab. Since 1999, the cabs and frames have been totally different. Look closely, a 1999 f150 shares only the tailgate with a 1999 f250, and that is how it has been ever since. Not the same cab.

Chevy still shares the same cab on 1500s, 2500s, and 3500s, but Dodge split the half ton from the 3/4 tons with the 5th gen Ram 1500, which no longer uses any parts in common with the 2500s and 3500s.

So I would say an f150 is a different model from an f250, a Chevy 1500 is the same model as a Chevy 2500, and a Ram 1500 is not the same model as a Ram 2500.

Racer Esq.
Racer Esq.
2 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

The F150 and F250/350 have shared cabs again since 2017.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago
Reply to  Racer Esq.

Okay, I had to look really close…….

How did I not know that they went back to sharing the cab on aluminum Fords? You’re totally right. Looks like they have totally different dashboards though, so not complete interior commonality.

I would still consider the 0 commonality between frames, engines, transmissions, suspensions, and the totally different bed and front end enough to consider them to be separate models. And I would still consider Chevy 1500s and 2500s to be the same model, because they have much more commonality in engines and suspension, and I think they use the same bed.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
2 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

How about Ford E vans? Different motors and different bodies. Van, extended van, ambulance. Truck work body, box truck …

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Chassis cabs are the same model. Ford didn’t put that work bed or that box on the back of that e350.

VanGuy
VanGuy
2 months ago

I think between all of the intricacies you’ve identified, plus Alexk98 mentioning early 1900s “manufacturers” who sold 3 examples, this is squarely an unsolvable problem.
You’d need to set very specific criteria before even starting.

The Ford Crown Victoria/Mercury Grand Marquis/Lincoln Town Car is a great example. They’re not literally identical cars–trims, interiors, and probably lots of minutiae (e.g., air suspensions) are different–but that problem has huge crossover with whether different “trims” count as separate models.

A Ford F-150 XL and a Ford F-150 Limited are the same vehicle in theory. In practice I’d happily count them separately because one is a work truck and the other is pretty much a luxury vehicle. But I wouldn’t give every trim the distinction of being its own “model”. I’d probably try to group them into two or three tiers…maybe. But even then I’d separate standard & extended cab from crew cab.

Then, of course, badge engineering. I’d group together examples where the badge is literally the only thing that changed between them, but I’m pretty sure this site has already covered examples of cars where a badge engineered car had a little more changed about them, right? Like the interior trim changed a bit, to “throw off the scent”, so to speak?

Some of these criteria could be set objectively, but not all of them. I think the only cop-out nearly-solvable answer would be “unique nameplates.” But I’d still call that wrong and oversimplifying, even if the number would still be interesting and good to know.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago
Reply to  VanGuy

Worth noting that the Crown Vic and Grand Marquis have 100% identical body but the Town Car shares no body panels. All 3 have the same chassis and drivetrain but the completely unrelated body and interior is enough for the Town Car to be a separate model.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
2 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

What makes a car and what is decorating? Frame and motors VS snap on body?

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

All the parts of a car make a car, and you have to draw a line where there is not enough commonality to be the same model. I think a different body structure and zero shared panels is enough to make something a different model. Just like an f150 and an e150 have pretty much the same frame and drivetrain but are different models because the body is quite different.

Nic Periton
Nic Periton
2 months ago

A flooptitude of different models is probably the answer.

MEK
MEK
2 months ago

Don’t forget all those special Corvettes that were made with a very rare exterior color that was only on 35 cars with this particular seat color with the deleted ash trays and the lighted vanity mirrors but didn’t have the chrome rims that was also made on a Tuesday in April. I mean that’s practically it’s own model according to the owner with the New Balance shoes at Cars and Coffee. Right?

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
2 months ago
Reply to  MEK

A change in colour does not designate a different model.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
2 months ago

I think I remember hearing that the Land Cruiser heritage museum has identified 153 or so distinct models of Land Cruiser they want for the museum, so it it very much matters how you slice that “Model” designation. Between series, wheelbases, body styles, license build versions, unique markets and configurations, it adds up.

https://landcruiserhm.com/museum-collection/vehicle-collection

Obviously some of those variations aren’t going to matter (LHD vs RHD, etc) but it’s still quite a few. There were a dozen or so variations of the 40 series alone in wheelbase and body style.

Last edited 2 months ago by Pat Rich
Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
2 months ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

Land Cruiser= 1 model

Chronometric
Chronometric
2 months ago

I say you have to build at least 10 cars before you are a manufacturer. In the 20s there were 250 manufacturers in just the US so let’s assume worldwide 4000 manufacturers ever. Let’s also assume the average longevity of a manufacturer at 20 years, producing 5 distinct new models per year. So, I get:
4000 * 20 * 5 = 400,000 different car models worldwide.

Last edited 2 months ago by Chronometric
Alexk98
Alexk98
2 months ago

You’re not going to get perfect answers, particularly from the earlier years of motoring when records were scant and manufacturers many. But you’d get somewhere at least.

I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to reconcile that early 20th century manufacturers that built all of 6 cars, advertised in 2 magazines, and have been forgotten about since WWII.

The number also definitely depends on how pedantic you want to get with special editions, limited editions with a slightly different roof, and one-off or small run coach built variants of normal cars. Do weird Sultan of Brunei cars count if they were never even acknowledged publicly by their manufacturers? So many questions, so many cars, so much unknown…

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
2 months ago

More than 12. Less than a million.

Ottomadiq
Ottomadiq
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Asa

I mean, he’s right.

VanGuy
VanGuy
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Asa

Found the astronomer

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Asa

So about three fiddy?

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