By Hugh Hunston
Sales of new cars in Britain broke through the two million barrier last year, with Ford dominating a buoyant market, their cars holding the top three positions. Demand has been sustained since the record E-registration August period, with the highest number of registrations in December for 16 years.
British manufacturers increased their annual share of the market from 44% to 48%, largely due to the number of Ford, General Motors, and Peugeot cars being built in UK plants. Companies and private buyers together bought 2013693 cars last year, adding nearly 131000 units, 7%, to the 1986 record figure. While Ford remained the unchallenged leader, General Motors and Austin Rover had mixed fortunes.
GM lost 13739 sales and dropped to 13.4% of the market, falling farther behind Austin Rover which, despite dropping nearly one percentage point, added 4345 cars. One feature of the figures was a continuing recovery by European companies, particularly the French and Italians. Citroen added 11587 to its 1986 total, pulling up to 2.3% of the market and Peugeot, by virtue of 12000 extra 309 models supplied from the Ryton, Coventry, plant, topped 5%.
Fiat’s market share grew to 3.4% but Nissan remained the top traditional importer with 114000 cars because its Bluebirds built at Washington, Tyne and Wear, did not qualify as British models until January 1.
Audi-VW, which has enjoyed strong growth in recent years, slipped back in the company ratings to 108000 units, suffering from rising prices dictated by the strength of the deutschmark against sterling, and supply problems.
Austin Rover, which recently forecast a profitable 1987, also announced export earnings of £700 million, representing 140,000 cars sold in 50 countries. Ford took the first three places in British car sales last year, with the Escort top seller, followed by the Fiesta and Sierra.