The ‘A List’ Stars in the World of Cars

Ford FiestaLooking at top car sales in the UK is a little bit like reading a guest list for a Kardashian party – you see the same last name repeated over and over again. In the case of U.K. car sales, the name you see is Ford.


Since 1971, the last year in which the Austin 1100-1300 was king of the hill, a Ford model vehicle has topped the charts year in, year out, without exception. That’s quite a run. The Austin and the Ford Cortina duked it out during the period of 1965 – 1971, but then the Ford Cortina took the lead and Ford never looked back. The Cortina and the Focus each enjoyed the number-one spot for 10 years, the Escort held the title for 12 years, and the Fiesta – currently number one – has had 7 years in the top spot.

So, the interesting stories to be found in the lists of top-selling UK cars over the last several decades do not include hard-bought battles among different manufacturers for first place. Ford has had that locked down for more than 40 years. The dramatic events concern the success of foreign imports and the rise and reign of alternative fuel vehicles and low-emissions models.

The Rise of Imports in UK Car Sales

This is a familiar story in the United States and Australia, as well. Japan and other Asian countries began to really colonize the UK new car sales market starting in the early 1970s. In 1972, Datsun of Japan became the second-largest car importer into Great Britain. It took a few more years for the Datsun to break into the top 10 – in 1977 at #10 with the Sunny. Nissan and Toyota have made appearances as well.

The UK has welcomed imports from other countries as well, in increasing numbers over the last several decades. Look at the top 10 lists for 1965, 1990, and 2012

1965                                        1990                            2012


4 imports                                 5 imports                     7 imports

Austin Morris 1100                 Ford Fiesta                  Ford Fiesta

Ford Cortina                            Ford Escort                  Vauxhall Corsa

Austin Morris Mini                  Vauxhall Cavalier        Ford Focus

Ford Anglia                              Ford Sierra                  Vauxhall Astra

Vauxhall Victor                       Vauxhall Astra             VW Golf

Vauxhall Viva                          Rover Metro               Nissan Qashqai

BMC 1.6 Farina                       Rover 200                    BMW 3 Series

Ford Corsair                            Vauxhall Nova             VW Polo

Morris Minor                          Ford Orion                   Mercedes C-Class

Ford Mark IV                           Peugeot 205                Mini

Ford has topped the list across the decades with more than one model in the top ten each time. Are they likely to be in future lists too? Find out more about Ford and their latest models at

It’s also interesting to see that not much has changed in taste over the years – but one thing that has changed is insurance policies. A Morris Minor, for example, would cost much more to insure now than it would have done back in 1965! If you fancy seeing how much a vintage car would cost to insure, you can compare competitive quotes on this site.

‘Green’ Cars in the UK

Ford introduced its eco-friendly version of the Fiesta in 2009, and the car went to the top of the top 10 list in the same year. Its reign has been unchallenged in the 3 years since, with the Fiesta and its ECOnetic model holding steady at the #1 spot.

Interestingly, no ‘plug-in’ vehicles have yet made it into the top 10. This is so despite the government’s sizeable expenditures to encourage more purchases. The government has spent £37 million to expand the network of charging stations and has offered £1,000 grants to install home charging stations.

This may be one of the greatest changes in the near future of the U.K. top 10 list – we may see electric cars rising into the vaunted positions at the top of list of top-selling cars. Here are some of the contenders so far.

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