RAYONG, Thailand - The stylish and nimble Ford Focus is on track to unseat Toyota's aging Corolla to become the world's top-selling car, according to Ford.
The company says it sold 489,616 Focus sedans and hatchbacks globally in the first half of 2012, besting the Corolla by almost 27,000.
The Focus has several advantages, says Aaron Bragman, an automotive industry analyst for IHS Global Insight. It is newer, features better handling and styling, has superior technology and a much nicer interior than the Corolla.
This 2010 file picture shows the 2012 model year Ford Focus during its debut at the LA Auto Show in Los Angeles. Ford Motor Co. said Friday, its Focus small car is on track to become the best-selling car in the world this year, trumping the Toyota Corolla.
"I'd rank it superior to the Corolla in pretty much most ways," says Bragman.
But Toyota isn't conceding the title. It has disputed Ford's numbers, saying its car is still on top when you include Corollas sold under other names. Hatchback versions of the Corolla are sold as the Auris in Europe and Matrix in the U.S.
Toyota also sells the Corolla Verso, a van-like vehicle that Toyota has traditionally counted as a Corolla, says spokesman Mike Michels. Including all the models, Toyota sold 603,840 Corollas in the first half, beating the focus by about 114,000, Michels says
Toyota is working on a new version of the Corolla which is expected to go on sale next year, although the company hasn't made it official.
Ford made the announcement at its assembly plant in Rayong, which opened in May to build the Focus. The Thailand plant, which is one of Ford's most advanced, has the capacity to produce 150,000 cars per year for sale in Thailand, Vietnam, Australia and other countries in the region.