Looking 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 www.ford.co.uk.
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.