Home » Can You Name The Best-Selling Car Of 1998?

Can You Name The Best-Selling Car Of 1998?

1988 Best Seller Ts5
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When it comes to the most popular cars, bikes, and nameplates of all time, us enthusiasts usually have a good handle on the key statistics. The Toyota Corolla dominates all cars, the Honda Super Cub dominates all other bikes, and the Volkswagen Beetle had one of the longest production runs out there. But did you know the humble Opel Corsa has a lofty record all its own?

Funnily enough, you probably never think about the Corsa in the US. It was destined to reach North America under the Saturn brand in the 2010s, but the death of Saturn put paid to that dream. Regardless, the Corsa had a grand career that pretty much spanned the rest of the world.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Indeed, back in 1998, the Corsa was at its peak. For one short year, it was the best-selling car in the world.

Opel Corsa 1997 Cutaway
Opel’s front-wheel-drive platform was never seen as reliable as Toyota’s Corolla, nor as refined as Volkswagen’s Golf. Yet, in 1998, it came out the victor.

You might think that this was all due to some immense launch hype, that the Corsa burst on the scene and took the world by storm. That’s actually anything but the case. The Corsa that dominated the charts in 1998 was not a new car. At this point, Opel was building the Corsa B, which had been on the market since 1993 in Europe. It was only five years into its run that it managed to pull off this banger feat.

The Corsa had a lot going for it. It was cheap, not unreliable, and it was available practically everywhere but the US and Canada. In 1998, it was on sale across Europe and South America, as well as Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and Mexico.

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There was even a cabrio!

With such a wide customer base, Opel shifted a full 910,839 units for the whole year. The Corsa was getting built all over the world at this point, with GM plants assembling Corsas on four continents.

To take the victory, the Corsa had to beat out some big names. It only narrowly pipped the Toyota Corolla, which chalked up 906,953 sales for the year. Volkswagen came in third with 892,367 units of the Golf, while the Toyota Camry had a strong showing in fourth at 697,258 cars sold.

Bodystyles were many and varied, which was sort of the Corsa’s specialty. You could get the regular 3-door or 5-door hatchbacks, or a four-door sedan if you were a three-box kinda person. There was also a five-door wagon or “estate” version, and a two-door utility to boot. The latter was sold as the Chevrolet Chevy in Mexico, and is about as cute as a ute can be.

Opel Corsa 1998 Images 1

Screenshot 2024 06 20 174241
Next year you can import this 2000 model to the United States. I think. via Mercado Libre

By virtue of being in so many markets, the Corsa also went under many names. You could get a Vauxhall Corsa in the UK, or an Opel Corsa in Europe. Chile got the Chevrolet Corsa Plus, while Mexico got the hilarious Chevrolet Chevy. Holden called it the Barina, while Japan called it the Opel Vita. After its banger year, the Corsa B eventually ended up in China as the Buick or Chevrolet Sail, though it was previously known by a catchier name—the Meilu JJ7090.

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The Corsa B had a long run, too. Europe was done with it by 2000, but Argentina and Brazil kept pumping these things out until 2016. By that point, Opel in Europe was two years into building the Corsa E.

Opel Corsa 1998 Pictures 2

Opel Corsa 1998 Pictures 4

Images Chevrolet Corsa 1997 2
The Corsa B came in a many brands and body styles — some more attractive than others.

Indeed, the Corsa often doesn’t get due credit as one of the world’s most popular cars—at least from English-speaking media. As a nameplate, it actually racked up 18 million sales by 2007 alone. Today, it’s still popular in Europe, though it’s no longer a big deal in Australia like it once was.

In any case, raise a glass to the Opel Corsa B. It might not have been 1998’s best, or fairest, but it was certainly the highest-selling of all. That’s worth celebrating.

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Image credits: Opel, Mercado Libre

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Vladimir Bogicevic
Vladimir Bogicevic
1 month ago

Opel Corsa B was essentially Opel corsa A with restyled body and updated engines. Considering that production of Corsa A started in 1982 it was old but reliable platform with one big advantage – most of the parts from other GM models had bolt on fit. I made and drove for more then 10 years two of those. First one had 2.0 16v 180hp from Opel Kadet 16v, second one had 2.0 16v turbo C20let from Calibra turbo with approximately 270 hp. In a 950 kg car. That car was FUN! And fast. Faster then Bmw M3, M5, Porshe 911 turbo, Maserati, Lancer Evo… So, it is no wander that Opel Corsa B was best-selling car, it was a good car.

Goblin
Goblin
1 month ago

And the ads were good too:

https://youtu.be/ZqP3rVdxviE

Tinibone
Tinibone
1 month ago

Man I learnt to drive manual on the Combo (the van version), good times!

Plus one of the standout cars from Kath and Kim too

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
1 month ago

I didn’t know this model existed; I knew of Opel, of course. Glad it did so good even though we didn’t get it.
“Chevrolet Chevy”
So that’s like the Eagle Eagle in 1988!

Chronometric
Chronometric
1 month ago

I would just like to point out that the Americans culturally appropriated the Italian word for race (corsa) long before the Germans did.

Corsa was the highest performance specification of the Chevrolet Corvair so it was somewhat appropriate. I’m pretty sure that naming an econobox Corsa is against the Second Vatican Council.

Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
1 month ago

Way too many of these still going strong around me not to know what it is. Kinda don’t care for them though, because, well, there’s just too many of them still going strong around me.

You left out one body style: the portuguese-built Combo van was technically a separate model but was heavily based on the Corsa B.

Last edited 1 month ago by Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
Tricky Motorsports
Tricky Motorsports
1 month ago

Off topic but I do have a moment to talk about Renaults. As a long time AMC fan their fortunes were intertwined of course. I briefly had a Caravelle I wanted to fix up but in the end it was too far rotted to save and it became a parts car for another Caravelle owner.

Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
1 month ago

Ohhh the Caravelle is gorgeous. I am here for anything related to classic Renault models. My daily driver is a 1991 Renault 4, and my first car was a dilapidated 1989 Espace Quadra. I also like AMC, definitely my favourite American automaker. I loved them before I was even aware of the connection with Renault. I remember seeings Pacers and Gremlins in pop culture growing up, and thinking they were cooler than any other American car by far. Like, not even a contest.

Last edited 1 month ago by Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
Griznant
Griznant
1 month ago

I also have time to talk about Renaults. I have two 4CVs, a ’60 and a ’61. Both projects, but the ’60 isn’t too terrible.

Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
1 month ago
Reply to  Griznant

The 4CV is such a cool little car. They’re nicknamed ‘Joaninha’ here in Portugal, meaning Ladybug. I know of a pristine one that’s technically unrestored, but it’s been so well maintained its entire life and is currently in its 4th paintjob, and also the chrome trim is regularly polished, it looks like it been freshly restored. It’s basically concours condition, obsessively maintained for 40 years by the original owner, and treated with basically the same level of care by his grandchildren for the past 2 decades.

Eric Gonzalez
Eric Gonzalez
1 month ago

They were everywhere here in Costa Rica back then in all body styles. They are all gone now, lack of parts killed them. The few you see are probably on their ways to the junkyard.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
29 days ago
Reply to  Eric Gonzalez

Chevys or Opels? Why did the importer abandon them?

Eric Gonzalez
Eric Gonzalez
29 days ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

Don’t quote me on this but I think they were sold as Opels but through Chevy dealerships. Still, potato = potato. I especially liked the little pick-ups.

Sometimes dealers’ interest is only in selling new. Chevrolet dealerships here have been notoriously bad at keeping parts stock, even for new cars, so imagine what happens after a few years and tens of thousands of miles and they require parts. At first you benefited from crashed ones, but eventually that repository dries up.

Here’s the only one I could find for sale locally, and it’s a parts car only:
https://www.facebook.com/marketplace/item/2200292343658337/?ref=search&referral_code=null&referral_story_type=post&tracking=browse_serp%3A8b3e671a-6f35-41d5-88f3-684b656e8661

A similar thing happened to the first gen Peugeot 206s. They were absolutely everywhere and now they’re all Fe2O3

BenCars
BenCars
1 month ago

The Corsa was cute, but shoutout also to its more stylish coupe cousin, the Tigra. Lovely little thing.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opel_Tigra

Iain Tunmore
Iain Tunmore
1 month ago
Reply to  BenCars

I haven’t seen an original Tigra for years.

Nice to see a face (name) from themotorforum/original Autocar forum!

BenCars
BenCars
1 month ago
Reply to  Iain Tunmore

Hello there!

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago

Exactly the type of cars we need now: Cheap, cheerful, reliable and slightly fun.

Who Knows
Who Knows
1 month ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

And with hoods/headlights that are closer to 2 feet off the ground, not 5 feet

AverageCupOfTea
AverageCupOfTea
1 month ago

The UTE is cute, and i wish i can buy something in the same size today, pickup choice here is large and larger.

LTDScott
LTDScott
1 month ago

I still see Chevrolet Chevys from Mexico here in California from time to time.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
1 month ago

“The latter was sold as the Chevrolet Chevy in Mexico”

Chevrolet Chevy? That’s so stupid. That’s just as stupid as “St. God’s Memorial Hospital” in the movie Idiocracy
https://thedroidyourelookingfor.wordpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/2976733183_5cccf5b8ee.jpg
https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/idiocracy

LarsVargas
LarsVargas
1 month ago

The Ferrari LaFerrari has entered the conversation.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
29 days ago
Reply to  LarsVargas

Except it’s just the LaFerrari. The extra “Ferrari” which often appears is merely the function of nearly all websites/insurance documents/government agencies requiring something in the “manufacturer” field and something in the “model” field.
Same thing when we end up with “Land Rover Range Rover”. It’s just a glitch.

M0L0TOV
M0L0TOV
1 month ago

I would like to order a plain baked potato with nothing on it. Reminds me of things I had to pay attention in my technical writing class in college.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago

Is it really that much different from the 1960’s Chevrolet Chevy II?
Or the Chevrolet Chevelle?

Hmmmm…

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
1 month ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

The Chevy II should have been called the Nova and the Chevelle should have been called the Malibu from the start.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
1 month ago

The Eagle Eagle in 1988 would like a word…

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
1 month ago
Reply to  Freelivin2713

Nice try but in 1988 the AMC Eagle was not called the Eagle Eagle. It was called the Eagle Wagon

“Chrysler took over AMC, but the production of the Eagles continued for the 1988 model year. The car’s name was officially changed from AMC Eagle to Eagle Wagon”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AMC_Eagle

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
1 month ago

Ok yeah, technically…it was just sort of the same thing…was just making a joke since I remember reading about it in junkyard finds
https://www.autoblog.com/2021/06/13/junkyard-gem-1988-amc-eagle-wagon/

“Sure, nobody at Chrysler wanted to go to the hassle of prying off the AMC badges and mirrors from a couple of thousand new ’88 Eagle Wagons, but these cars were — legally speaking — Eagle Eagles. It appears that Chrysler managed to dodge — get it? — being forced to use the “Eagle Eagle” name in any marketing materials, but this car will always be the Eagle Eagle to me.”

Michal K
Michal K
1 month ago

Opel’s front-wheel-drive platform was never seen as reliable as Toyota’s Corolla, nor as refined as Volkswagen’s Golf” — although true, it is still weird to compare Corsa to Corolla or Golf. it is a sub-compact, or a supermini as the Brits call it. a direct competitor to Yaris or a VW Polo.
apples-to-apples comparison would be Corolla to Astra. Which Toyota still would have won hands down

Last edited 1 month ago by Michal K
Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
1 month ago
Reply to  Michal K

You’re not wrong, but I think the point was that the Corolla and golf were moving a similar number of vehicles while the yaris and polo sold in far fewer quantities.

Rusty S Trusty
Rusty S Trusty
1 month ago
Reply to  Michal K

They are being compared because the Corolla and Golf were the 2nd and 3rd best selling cars that year, respectively, not because they were in the same class

Last edited 1 month ago by Rusty S Trusty
Phuzz
Phuzz
1 month ago
Reply to  Michal K

The Astra was/is the Golf sized competitor.

R53forfun
R53forfun
1 month ago

Beep beep! Barina!

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
1 month ago
Reply to  R53forfun

I thought the Holden Barina was based on the Suzuki Swift/Cultus

LTDScott
LTDScott
1 month ago

First and second gens were. Third gen was Corsa based.

Nlpnt
Nlpnt
1 month ago
Reply to  LTDScott

And later ones were Daewoo. “Holden Barina” was more of a job title than a design lineage.

R53forfun
R53forfun
1 month ago
Reply to  Nlpnt

And to be fair, I believe that marketing tagline was more a thing with the first and second gens?

Eh, my marketing deep cut may have missed the technically correct mark 🙂

Mrbrown89
Mrbrown89
1 month ago

Its amazing how this car was so successful in Mexico that replaced the Beetle on the big volume sales, it was a competition between the Chevy and the Nissan Tsuru. So successful that GM Design Center in Mexico created the second generation just for the mexican market, it even had OnStar in the last model years.

Baja_Engineer
Baja_Engineer
1 month ago
Reply to  Mrbrown89

Correct. The Chevy, Tsuru and the 2dr taxis no longer allowed in Mexico City what ended up being the Bug’s death sentence

Donfuy
Donfuy
1 month ago

They were absolutely everywhere in Portugal back then. Their Isuzu supplied diesels were absolute (slow) beasts.

Mortalcombatant
Mortalcombatant
1 month ago

There was also bigger Corsa sold as Opel Combo in Europe. Also tax evasion special called Opel Corsa Van – 3d hatchback with blocked out rear windows and no back seats.

This is interesting topic in general, not really known in US – van versions of small economy hatchbacks. They take regular 3d hatchback, turn the back seat into cargo area and sell it as commercial vehicle. Great for small businesses and tax evasion.

Mattias
Mattias
1 month ago
Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
1 month ago

They should’ve sold it here instead of the shitty Cavalier

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
1 month ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

Nah… the Corsa was about the size of the Suzuki Swift/Geo Metro.

And from a reliability/durability perspective, we actually got the better small car in North America.

And as an added bonus, it was built in Canada… Ingersoll Ontario to be exact:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CAMI_Assembly

It was the Astra that was more like the size of the Cavalier.

Also note that the 2008+ Chevy Cruze was essentially an Astra as it was on the same platform
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_Delta_platform#Delta_II

Last edited 1 month ago by Manwich Sandwich
Jatkat
Jatkat
1 month ago

Don’t forget we briefly got the Astra here as a saturn! Didn’t sell so well, but I’m not sure if that was the cars fault, or the slowly collapsing saturn brand.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
1 month ago

oops

But still, GM sold multiple cars in the Cavalier class (Cavalier/Sunfire, Prizm, Saturn S-series), so why not multiple cars in the segment below? The Swift/Metro and the Corsa 😛

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
1 month ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

 so why not multiple cars in the segment below?”

Because they are low-margin/low-profit vehicles to begin with.

In my view, the only way to make money is what Lee Iacocca did with the Dodge Omni in the mid 1980s… paired the engine options down to one GOOD option and produce one equipment package for a great price.

The fact that GM sold multiple cars with different platforms was a mistake in my view.

Also in my view, Saturn itself was a huge, costly mistake that resulting in more unnecessary duplication/overhead in the company. The money spent on Saturn should have been spent on improving/updating/rationalizing existing product.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
29 days ago

Nope, the Astra was also smaller – the Vectra (GM2900) was the Cavalier equivalent. The first gen was even sold as the Vauxhall Cavalier in the UK. The Ascona (Vectra’s predecessor) was Opel’s J-car.

Baja_Engineer
Baja_Engineer
1 month ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

The Cavalier was roomier and had more powahhh!
Totally different segment, but I would’ve certainly preferred the Corsa over the crappy Daewoo based Aveo

VanGuy
VanGuy
1 month ago

That is interesting. Definitely wouldn’t have assumed anything unseated the Corolla.

Not necessarily a car for me but on behalf of many: damn you, footprint laws

Jmfecon
Jmfecon
1 month ago

The wagon or estate is really nice, and aged really well. But here in Brazil most of them become workhorses, findind one in a decent shape and reasonably priced is almost impossible nowadays.

Baja_Engineer
Baja_Engineer
1 month ago
Reply to  Jmfecon

Pretty much what happened to the Chevy UTEs in Mexico. It’s next to impossible to find a clean one.

Argentine Utop
Argentine Utop
1 month ago
Reply to  Jmfecon

The same in Argentina. But so many of them keep running, in not exactly fine conditions. You can’t throw a stone blindfolded without hitting one, being run over by another, and the taxi taking you to the hospital will be a Corsa too.

Data
Data
1 month ago

The Chevrolet Chevy; it’s like if your name was Boutros Boutros-Ghali*.

*Former Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
1 month ago
Reply to  Data

Or if Elton John had a son and named him John… making him little John John.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 month ago

I’m thinking about by a pair of the utilities out of Mexico. Then I can have two utes.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
1 month ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Uhhhh… did you say “yutes”?

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
1 month ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

“Then I can have two utes.”

No… you’d have two utilitii… pronounced ‘you-til-it-tie’

Last edited 1 month ago by Manwich Sandwich
Grey alien in a beige sedan
Grey alien in a beige sedan
1 month ago

The corsa looks like a car that would be stacked 4-6 abreast and two high right next to a giant ramp for a monster truck rally. Convince me otherwise.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
1 month ago

It does have a punchable face, doesn’t it?

Phuzz
Phuzz
1 month ago

Saw one yesterday, which was probably 15-20 years old, pretty knackered, but still driving. It looked to be one MOT failure away from the scrappy.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
1 month ago

I remember living in New Mexico and Texas in the mid-to-late 90s and seeing these roaming around American roads with Mexican plates. They were definitely unusual looking for American roads, but I’d have been all giddy to see one of the ute versions.

Trenton Abernathy
Trenton Abernathy
1 month ago

I’ve always loved the european compacts. Not in the sense that they would be fun to drive, but I like the idea of a no-frills, very utilitarian, not-ugly little thing that I can run about town in and not give a fuck about. The same way I admire a Toyota Tercel or Echo.

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