The original Volkswagen Beetle was the bestselling car of all time. The second bestselling is the Model T.
However, if you are asking about total market penetration, Ford’s old “Tin Lizzy” wins, hands down.
By 1927, Model Ts made up 68% of the world’s cars, 15 million total rolling. The Model T was much more than a vehicle for transportation for many people.
It was also a dependable engine that could be used to run almost anything on a farm that might not even yet have electricity.
In its 1920s heyday, the Sears Roebuck catalog featured 5,000 items that could be added to or run by the Model T, including plows, harvesters, butter chums, flour grinders, generators, and even centrifuges for extracting honey from bee combs.
Twenty years later, VW used the same strategy as Ford had: build a good, no-frills car that’s easy to fix, price it cheaply enough for almost anybody to afford, and don’t mess with a new design every year.
In fact, VW designer Ferdinand Porsche traveled to America in the 1930s to meet Henry Ford, and told him his dream of creating an inexpensive yet reliable “people’s car.”
“If somebody can build a car better or cheaper than I can, it serves me right.”