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Why the Corolla is so popular -- even in Afghanistan

TOKYO -- No doubt about it, Americans love the Toyota Corolla.

Until last year, the utilitarian runabout was the best-selling compact in the United States for 10 straight years.

But there's one place that might adore the car even more: Afghanistan.

I came across a report from Agence France-Presse in the Hindustan Times of India this month that claims a whopping majority of the 700,000 cars on the streets of the Afghan capital of Kabul are Corollas.

Indeed, 80 percent of those vehicles are the pint-sized Toyota workhorse, the report said, citing Gen. Asadullah Khan, head of Kabul's traffic police. That may be an exaggeration, and many of those are used cars imported from Europe or North America.

But in Afghanistan, the Corolla fills a huge need.

War-weary Afghans -- who battle potholed roads, extreme heat, dangerous driving conditions and paltry personal income -- favor the Corolla for the reasons people elsewhere do. It's a reliable, durable, fuel-efficient car that's easy on the pocketbook.

And with more than a half-million of them plying the streets even in a remote city such as Kabul, it's easy to see why the trusty Corolla remains the world's longtime best-selling car.

Toyota has sold nearly 40 million Corollas since its 1966 debut, and demand for affordable durability is a big reason why.

You can reach Hans Greimel at hgreimel@crain.com -- Follow Hans on Twitter: @hansgreimel

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