How many different car models have ever been made?
September 14, 2019 8:59 AM   Subscribe

How many different car models have ever been made for sale?

I don't know that there is any *one* accurate answer to this question, but I (and my son) are looking for reasonably substantiated answers. Thanks!
posted by Sticherbeast to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This page seems to list 6162, if my quick scrape of the elements with classes col-red or col-green2 added up properly.
posted by Wobbuffet at 9:16 AM on September 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Wobbuffet's page would be the lower limit - it's missing the Soviet manufacturers GAZ and (now Ukrainian) ZAZ as well as Chinese Great Wall and other Chinese manufacturers. The listing for Polish FSO exists but is nowhere near complete, missing the iconic Warszawa and Syrena and I suspect other non-US/Western Europe producers would also not have all their models listed. Chinese producers alone would probably add hundreds of models to that number.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 9:32 AM on September 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's also missing my 1995 Daihatsu Mira, which is not at all the same thing as a 1995 Daihatsu Charade. I wouldn't trust it.
posted by flabdablet at 9:37 AM on September 14, 2019

Not to pile on, but that page also seems to be missing a lot of now-defunct manufacturers like Deusenberg, Packard, Studebaker, Stutz, Tucker, AMC, etc. I don't think the list of kei cars is complete, either, though I'm not sure if you want to count them.

This company (a market research firm I'm not familiar with) says 280,000 models. They won't share their list for free, so I'll speculate: because that number is so much larger than Wobbuffet's, I suspect that they may be considering e.g. a Volkswagen Golf, Golf-R, and GTI (or a BMW 318ti, 325i, and M3) as three different models, where I'd be inclined to say they're all versions of the Golf (or 3-series).
posted by box at 9:50 AM on September 14, 2019

That list is missing all the models of Rover (cars) and only lists Land Rover. Also missing NSU, A.C. , DKW, Jowett, Riley... it's very incomplete.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 9:50 AM on September 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's also missing Fargo (sold trucks all over the world, just not the US), Tucker, Bricklin, Nash, Allstate, Frazer Nash, AMC and Desoto to name just a few.

Model counts for at least some marquees are way too low. Mercury for example probably had 15 different models in a single year at times in the 50s. I'd bet it is also missing distinct Canadian versions of American models.
posted by Mitheral at 9:54 AM on September 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also I'll note that things were a little loosey goosey when it came to models in the 50s/60s. Lots of factory 1 of none models. My mother for example had a Mercury Meteor Comet; a car that databases don't know existed. Manufacturers would make distinct models for regional markets (usually California but other places too) eg: Mustang GT/CS.

Prewar it wasn't unusual to a person to buy a chassis from a car maker and then take that to a coach builder to get a body built. Do you count those all as a distinct model? Some of the most famous cars are those sort of thing.

Ford has been building F series pickups for decades. 1 model? (this is what their advertising claims). At a minimum most reasonable people would make a split between light and medium duty trucks.

On the truck front Dodge (and presumably other manufacturers) would make you what ever you wanted well into the 70s. Want an A100 (small van) with doors on both sides or no side doors at all? No problem. In 47 Ford made both a Sedan Delivery and a Panel Truck.

And there is box's point. When does a trim level morph into a different model? Model Ts were everything from stripped down open topped roadsters to enclosed sedans/coupes to pickups and, just to be confusing, bare chassis; all in the same year. Basically an entire model line were all called Model Ts.

Novas, Omrgas, Venturas, Apollo are all the same car with different trim but sold by four different manufacturers. Or badge engineered cars like the Camry/Apollo. Novas were Pontiac/Buick Acadians in Canada.
posted by Mitheral at 10:37 AM on September 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

More missing:
DAF (600, 750, Daffodil, 33, 44, 55, 66 as well as a fair number of trucks and military vehicles)
Saab (95, Sonett)
Volvo (444, 544, 121, P1800, and again trucks and military vehicles)
Hanomag (vans and trucks), Goggomobil, Messerschmitt, Borgward, Matador, EMW, Robur, Zastava, Tatra, and oodles more.

In short, it's a pretty shitty list.
posted by Stoneshop at 10:50 AM on September 14, 2019

Volkswagen is also hilariously incomplete; they don't even list just about anything between the Ur-Beetle (which is not at all the first generation of the modern Beetle; a Golf 1 and Golf VII could be considered generations of the same car, the Beetle? definitely not).
Vauxhall? No models, like the Viva and the Victor, from before they started rebadging Opels.
Hillmann. Horch. Wanderer. Hispano-Suiza. Delage.
Couple of hours with Wikipedia would yield better results.
posted by Stoneshop at 11:12 AM on September 14, 2019

Wobbuffet's page is missing completely famous early US makers like Stutz, Duesenberg, Cord, Packard. It appears to be a listing of currently active manufacturers, more-or-less.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:30 PM on September 14, 2019 has an index of every type of car sold in the UK. It includes both current and discontinued models.
They don't give a total number but there is a separate page for every small model variation - engine size, petrol, diesel, automatic gearbox etc - and Google has indexed 16,400 pages.

It is based on published goverment data so for the UK is pretty accurate.
It only includes historical car models which have had at least one surviving example recorded from 1994 onwards.
Obviously this will not include any foreign cars that are not imported to the UK.

Although many cars are exported to multiple countries around the world they are always modified to meet the specific legislation in that country, not just left hand/right hand drive but also minutiae about the positioning of lights etc so arguably those are all different models.

From the 2017 world production figures here, the UK represents just 2.27% of world car sales, so if we make the (possibly large) assumption that the number of different models offered for sale in each country is proportional to the sales/production numbers in that country, then we can multiply 16,400 by 43.95 giving a very approximate worldwide figure of 720,866 different car models.

Large parts of the world have lagged behind the UK in the number of cars they produce/buy per capita for decades, so using that 2017 figure is going to overstate things by some way.
posted by Lanark at 12:47 PM on September 14, 2019

Wikipedia's list of cars by year of introduction contains 4455 models, but this is an under-count because some cars like the Rickett don't include a "year of introduction" category.

The list of cars by decade has a total of 6361 pages if you add all the decades together, but this counts some pages multiple times because they span multiple decades. (For example, the Mazda MX-5 appears in the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s categories.)

I haven't come up with a better way to quickly enumerate or estimate all of the car models on Wikipedia. Cars by country might be another useful starting point, but it would take some work to total up all the sub-sub-categories while filtering out duplicates.
posted by mbrubeck at 1:57 PM on September 14, 2019

Mea culpa, folks. For the record, my only relevant skill, if any, is being able to turn an HTML list into a number in like a minute or two. The bad list has 109 brands and 6162 models for an average of ~57 models per manufacturer, which is evidently low even if compression of generations is allowed. Plugging the names of a bunch of missing manufacturers into google in search of a page that's trivial to scrape turns up this list of 1142 manufacturers, suggesting that 65094 (i.e. 1142 * 57) might still be a low estimate as well.
posted by Wobbuffet at 3:00 PM on September 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

Plugging the names of a bunch of missing manufacturers into google in search of a page that's trivial to scrape turns up this list of 1142 manufacturers, suggesting that 65094 (i.e. 1142 * 57) might still be a low estimate as well.

That might well be overestimating things again. Those manufacturers on this second list and missing from the first list you linked are often quite small and/or short-lived, which would definitely push the average down. Probably better to handwave the average number of models for that category to be 10; some did just one or two (DeLorean, Edsel) before going under or being bought up. There are also a few motorcycle manufacturers on that second list, like Izh, Munch and Zundapp. 'Verschiedenes' isn't a car brand either; it's German for 'various'. Adjusting the number from the first list up by 20% due to the evidently missing models, and using 10 models for the remaining 1020 the number I end up with is 17594.

And there's still the question of what one would consider a distinct model. Sedan/hatchback/stationwagon? Different engines (fuel, capacity, power/torque)? Number of doors? Seats? Is a 2018 Renault Kangoo sold in Germany a different model again from one sold in the Netherlands, as they offer a different number of accessories on the same base model?
posted by Stoneshop at 4:06 PM on September 14, 2019

On the other hand, the second list still doesn't have the Chinese manufacturers - Great Wall alone has 44 "main" models listed on their Wikipedia page. If we treat various body options and trim levels as separate models, box's number of 280,000 sounds much more plausible.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 10:50 PM on September 14, 2019

On the second list, Great Wall is listed as Changcheng, along with many other Chinese manufacturers, e.g. Changan, Changfeng, Hongqi, Beijing (BAIC), and so on. It does have errors, like Verschiedenes and probably Münch, but IZh and Zündapp at one time or another did make cars.
posted by Wobbuffet at 11:37 PM on September 14, 2019

Zündapp at one time or another did make cars.

Three prototypes only for a People's Car ("Volkswagen") in cooperation with Porsche; never available to the general public.
posted by Stoneshop at 12:49 AM on September 15, 2019

Zündapp Janus: "a total of 6,902 cars."
posted by Wobbuffet at 12:53 AM on September 15, 2019

Okay, 17595. And then lowered further again after some more correcting ('rennwagen', 'taxi', 'indy race cars'). Sachsenring is also listed as VEB Sachsenring as well as Trabant. Would the Scott Sociable be considered a car? The Seal Sociable and the Velorex (these two not listed)?

All of that isn't significantly altering the total anyway.
posted by Stoneshop at 3:43 AM on September 15, 2019

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