Toyota has sold its 50 millionth Corolla, cementing its position as the world’s most popular model, the automaker’s Australian unit said.

Over 54 years, 1.5m of the 50m have been sold in Australia, with many assembled locally, initially by Australian Motor Industries (AMI) which was subsequently absorbed into Toyota Australia.

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Australia was the first export market for the Corolla when 15 examples of the small 1.1-litre KE10 two-door sedan left the factory in Japan in November 1966.

They went on sale in 1967.

Sales across the Tasman began in 1968 with New Zealand’s Campbell Motor Industries assembling the four door sedan under contract to importer Consolidated Motor Distributors (CMD). The factory and distributor were eventually bought out by the Toyota Motor Corporation to form Toyota NZ and the former assembly plant today reconditions and prepares used Toyotas imported from Japan for sale through TNZ’s dealer network.

Toyota Australia sales, marketing and franchise operations chief Sean Hanley said the success of Corolla was built on its quality, durability and reliability.

AMI assembled Corolla at a factory in Port Melbourne. Toyota Australia went on to build 666,000 units until 1999 at factories in Port Melbourne, Dandenong and Altona.

The success of Corolla in Australia has been replicated across the globe. In 1997, it became the world’s most popular nameplate and last year, it was bought by more than 1.1m customers.

It is sold in 150 countries and regions at the rate of approximately one every 28 seconds over the past year and is produced at 12 plants across the world in Japan, Brazil, Venezuela, China, Pakistan, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Turkey, US and the UK.

UK built versions sold locally and in Europe were badged Auris for some years.

The model was launched first in Japan in 1966.