News : New car sales a success for UK in 2012

Keith Adams

Range Rover Evoque

Despite gloomy economic conditions in Europe and low overall consumer confidence, the UK car market performed well in 2012, with overall sales up by more than 5 per cent, to 2,044,000, a return to 2008 levels. But it was the UK manufacturers and assembly operations that made great gains in 2012 – British-made car’s sales rose by 11.1% in 2012, increasing market share to 13.5%.

Star performer in 2012 is Land Rover. Sales are up to 48,626 from 37,637 in 2011 – a rise of 29.2 per cent. This success is almost entirely down to strong sales of the Evoque, which is now the company’s biggest-selling single model. There’s a very real possibility of Land Rover sales overtaking MINI in 2013 – although its sales rose (to post a 2.37 per cent improvement) from 50,158 to 51,324, it’s a distinctly average performance in a strong market. Jaguar also posted a modest rise to 14,109 from 13,787. Watch the leaping cat in 2013 when the F-Type goes on sale.

As for the smaller players – Aston Martin’s sales fell to less than 1000 (falling 8.98 per cent), but Bentley went the other way, rising to 1267 from 1037, and proving that the ever expanding GT range is paying dividends in UK dealerships. MG Motor UK is crowing about its 117 per cent rise in sales, and that it posted the best figures since 2006, but as it’s still some way from 1000 UK sales (782 in 2012), it means that the MG6 is still a far more exclusive car than the Bentley Continental GT.

Spare a thought for Lotus – despite an F1 bearing the same name winning a race in 2012, sales fell off a cliff, falling by 58.36 per cent to 138 for the year. Something needs to be done – and good news is still some way away yet.

Finally, it’s worth bearing in mind that in the Top 10 best sellers for 2012, number four and number six – the Vauxhall Astra and Nissan Qashqai – are British built, and many of the engines  in the Ford Focus, Fiesta, BMW 3- and 1-Series are also built in the UK. A good news story all round. The question is – can this momentum be maintained in 2013?


Top selling models of 2012
Model  Number sold  
Ford Fiesta                          109,265
Vauxhall Corsa                            89,434
Ford Focus                            83,115
Vauxhall Astra                            63,023
Volkswagen Golf                            62,021
Nissan Qashqai                            45,675
BMW 3-Series                            44,521
Volkswagen Polo                            41,901
Mercedes-Benz C-Class                            37,261
BMW 1-Series                            34,488

Click through to download the full December 2012 (full year) new car registrations news release and data tables.

Keith Adams


  1. Who would have thought the Merc C class would be in the top 10.
    Surprised the MINI isn’t in the top 10 if they sold 51k, is it because the Countryman is classed as a separate vehicle, and the normal hatch sold less than the 1 series?

  2. Seeing the 1 & 3 and Merc in the top ten does show you where the market is going. At one point that would be the big Fords & Vauxhalls in those spots.

    Good to see though that UK manufacturing is on the up, and will someone please shove a rocket up the arse of those at Longbridge

  3. Its such a shame that Jaguar Land Rover is now an Indian company. If only the government stepped in when Ford wanted rid of JLR, it could have been a true British success story! Still, at least they’re designed and built in the UK! Long live Land Rover! I also wonder what state MG/Rover would be in if Tata owned them too and were part of the JLR group…

  4. @ Warren b.c. I don’t think Jlr would have been successful under govt control. It would have had no investment. Tata + jlr as an organization are very switched on people.alex.

  5. @5 …What a daft comment. JLR is a true British success story. The investment may be coming from India, but the cars are designed, developed and manufactured from sheet steel upwards in the UK. That makes them British as far as I am concerned. I would far rather see a succesful Indian owned JLR than the lame duck Government owned company it once was.

  6. @8
    Good to see, the UK has an amazing number of modern engine plants. i54 is a ridiculous name for a Business Park though!

  7. Is it still true that all Fiestas are assembled in Valencia, all Corsas in Zaragoza and Polos in the former Authi factory ? If it is we are in the surprising situation where #1, #2 and #8 top selling cars in the UK are assembled in Spain ! Not exactly a the first country that comes to mind when you are asked to name a top car building country.

  8. Despite their obvious success with the Fiesta and Focus, it still surprises me that Ford seem to have lost interest in the Mondeo category. How many of them do they sell now? More than the MG6?

  9. @KC 11

    The Mondeo is a steady seller though isn’t setting the sales figures alight. Yesterday’s Cortina / Sierra driver is today’s 3 series / C class driver. Company car schemes offer 3 series for similar (or less!) lease cost than Mondeos.

    The Insignia used to be amongst the top 10.

    Sadly this segment amongst non-german marques is shrinking. The Nissan qashcow up there, which was the de facto replacement for the Primera, shows where the market now lies.

  10. Cannot believe the BMW 1 series is the 10th best selling car in Britain.With the exeption of the coupe model that is one boreing,almost ugly car to look at.

  11. @delboydenmark

    It is the cheapest way of ‘buying’ into the brand. UK car buyers are brand / marketing led, everything has to be german.

  12. I think Renner/Datsun were really surprised at first at how well the Squashedquiche sold. Now you see the flippin things everywhere. Its also good news for the Britain to be honest, keeping the Washington plant busy. I can’t see why the Joke/Puke sells though, as it makes an All aggro seem handsome

  13. @Paul
    You mean like the lame duck government ownend company Jaguar was when it posted the largest ever (to this day even) profit it has ever made? (’88/’89)

  14. It is truly amazing what cars sell nowadays. A different world from the 80’s when the big three dominated fleet sales. Everything is on the never never lease now. Not me my 75 is 9 years old and I own it despite running a business.

  15. Although I see the Focus is third and Astra fourth, that surprises me as I seem to see more Astra’s and Qashqais on the road than new Focus’s. Of course restricting the numbers to 61, 12 and 62 registrations for the year 2012 may affect my interpretation.

    Whatever the numbers, that’s a lot of cars!

  16. While no one can deny Ford and Vauxhall are still the big two players in Britain, I own a Fiesta now, a lot can depend on what your local dealers sell. The only dealership left in Whitehaven sells SEATs, the dealer is also well known locally, and these are nearly as common as the big two.Another popular local dealer sells Suzukis, and I’d say if the top ten was based on my locality, the Swift would be in there with the SEAT Ibiza fifth.
    Also for all it’s good the British car industry now exports more than ever, such a low market share of 13.5 pc must be a record among major car producing countries in Europe. Even in the bad old days of the early eighties, it was nearly 50 per cent.

  17. “the cars are designed, developed and manufactured from sheet steel upwards in the UK.”

    And also from aluminium – the Jaguar XJ from 2003, the XK from 2006, and the new F-type in 2013, not forgetting the recently announced new Range Rover is also aluminium, using the Jaguar-developed aerospace-type rivets & glue technology.

  18. Take the fleet registations/purchases out and it would make for an interesting snapshot of our economy.
    @20,I think Seat make some nice looking cars,the new leon very much so.

  19. @15,Any 1 series is an ugly car,pricey once optioned,if you want to buy into the brand and say aspire to be a 3 series owner why not buy a one or two year old 3 series instead of “making do” with a 1?

  20. Agreed the BMW 1 is a hell of an ugly car, although the latest (Mk2 ?) version is a bit of an improvement. But I also find BMW 3 and 5s incredibly bland and anonymous – like something Japan in the mid 80s.

  21. Finding the equivalent top 10 for 10 years ago highlights
    a) How the Top 10 sales are much lower, partially due to lower overall sales, but also due to a much wider spread of sales
    b) How the French manufacturers have really declined, when was the last time you saw a new Renault Megane?
    c) The rise of German manufacturers

    1.Ford Focus 151,209
    2.Vauxhall Corsa 105,199
    3.Vauxhall Astra 102,107
    4.Peugeot 206 96,938
    5.Ford Fiesta 93,591
    6.Renault Clio 86,337
    7.Volkswagen Golf 72,362
    8.Ford Mondeo 72,016
    9.Renault Megane 69,530
    10.Ford Ka 62,863

  22. The 2002 list also highlights that the Mondeo was once mid-size fodder, but that now the Germans have fleet/tax specials.

    Trying to find Irish lists for 2012, all I can find are the following:

    “Volkswagen was the best-selling car brand in Ireland in 2012, ahead of Toyota in second place and Ford in third place.

    A total of 10,073 new Volkswagen cars were sold last year to give the company a 12.67% market share.

    This came ahead of Toyota’s 9,998 (12.58% market share) and Ford with 8,592 (10.81% market share).

    The Ford Focus was the best selling car, followed by the Volkswagen Golf and the Nissan Qashqai.”

  23. Seat wont be around for very much longer as a brand I don’t think. Europe wide sales are in the toilet, thanks to a range of cars nobody really wants, and the warmed up leftover Audi proves they aren’t prepared to invest in Seat. That shape of A4 must be nudging 10 years old by now, and adding an ugly nose on it…

  24. @Yorkie

    VW to blame. They were confused on what they wanted to do with Seat.

    Started off as a budget brand, selling a cut price version of the VW Caddy, Ibiza was pure Polo (the Cordoba being sold as the Polo Classic saloon), the Golf spinoff was the saloon-hatch mk1 Toledo.
    Reestablished as the sporting brand, ‘a German-Spanish Alfa Romeo’ – Seat Terra killed off, the Golf based Jaguar Kensingston-style Toledo mk2 and Leon were a bit of a success.
    Reestablished again as a family car brand, the Leon, Altea and Toledo all had a similar monobox brand that looked like a rounded off Vel Satis.
    Then paniced, and rushed out a second hand Audi to replace the old ‘sporty’ Toledo.
    New Toledo to be a rebadged Skoda.

    VW don’t know what Skoda is about either. Started off as a budget brand, now seen as quality sub-premium. Now trying to establish a sub-sub-premium brand.

  25. Will M, my thoughts exactly. Skoda’s bubble is about to go BANG, thanks to the flop that is the Roomster, and the Superb, and the new Rapid, which quite frankly is not selling at all, plus the new Octavia which will be sold in the almost non existent D segment. Rumour has it that they are already doing massive discounts on the new Rapid in their homeland of the Czech republic, simply because it has gone down like a lead brick, and discounts equivalent to around £2000 are easily obtainable. And funny how I haven’t seen a single 62 reg Seat except for a demo Mii

  26. Very interesting looking at the SMMT spreadsheet.

    Who’d have guessed that the top 3 for December would be Vauxhall (13.17%), Ford (12.67%) and BMW (8.24%).

    Will BMW ever get to number 1 in the UK sales charts? It just goes to show that a little perceived prestige can go a long, long way.

  27. @32,The dynamics of any BMW is without question peerless,but as a package do they make anyone feel special?i only liked the previous generation 5 series the new 3 looks ok i would still chose an insinia over it on looks alone, the alfa 156 came close as an all rounder (V6)but i wouldnt have one now.To be honest,im a Vauxhall man,always have been and i dont think they make a truly awful car now even the Agila!

  28. A major reason that the 1 series is so popular is because B** have invested in engine technologies that reduce the CO2 figures so the taxation is less for the users that drive them and the businesses that lease them. Also the B** test drivers have got all the right tricks to turn in decent CO2 figures despite the mpg figures in the real world.

  29. Looking at the manufacturer figures, what’s truly shocking is the decline of Renault, who sold only 40,760 cars in the year. That’s fewer than Land Rover (48,626), and a long way behind Peugeot and Citroen, never mind the Germans.

    I can’t see their electric cars making much difference…

  30. @34

    bmw are also master marketers, who have managed to convince/brainwash the public that their products are desirable in some way.

    MG could do with hiring their marketing team.

  31. @38
    Honda are to axe the Accord in Europe, and concentrate on the Civic, CRZ and crossover/SUVs such as the CRV.

  32. Great shame the news coming from Honda UK given the apparent success of JLR & Nissan. I’ve had 2 (Accord & Civic) as company cars and really liked them.

    My brother owned a MK1 Accord hatchback in 1979 and I was impressed with its build quality and performance (1.6 litre). Always regarded them as “Japanese” BMW standard to a certain degree.

  33. @ 40,Hondas sales rose 7% in the UK last year and dropped 6% in europe,its got worse for PSA,Renault and Fiat.At least with the Japs they are cash rich and dont do big debt.

  34. Honda sales are really struggling now in the UK, and dealers are doing massive discounts on stockpiled models, as they try and shift soon to be deleted models, which will destroy the normally strong residuals Honda enjoy.

  35. Going back to the style question – and Seat, have they ever actually had an original thought in their head? Beauty is of course in the eye of the beholder but all Seat have ever done is copy – Honda, Ford, Vauxhall, Alfa and of course VW.
    With regard to BMW, The Chris Bangle designed cars are of course quite disgustingly ugly (to many folks one can talk to, not just me), but it doesn’t matter because Beemers sell primarily on the ‘image’ of owning a Beemer!
    I reckon their market persona is now so strong they could market the Trabant with a Beemer badge and it would sell like hot cakes. It would probably take a year or so for the penny to drop!
    Chris Bangle – before he Banglised the 3 and 5 Series was a really top stylist and was responsible for the exterior of the Fiat Coupe. I’m not sure if he had anything to do with the Queen Mary – sorry, I mean the 7 series – but what an abortionate creation that is compared with the simplicity but ‘rightness’ of the old shark nosed cars of the 80’s.
    Finally, I have just one question. When the new owner gets his Squashkay (or whatever it’s called) home, does he have to plug it in at night to pump up all those steroid curves – or is it done with high pressure water? Or do you just leave it by your kids old Tonka toy and it does it by wi-fi?
    O’h Lord, please bring back car-shaped cars like the Viva!

  36. There’s something about JLR’s UK sales figures, the level of profit they are making and how much Tata are investing which I can’t square. And no I can’t articulate it any better than that. I’ve a niggling sense of, well I don’t know what exactly, but whatever it is – I’ve got it.

  37. I know it might come as a shock to many people here, and I feel like the person who said ‘Jehovah’ in Life of Brian, but…

    One of the reason BMW sell lots of cars….is because they are good.

  38. @45 But everyone knows the X5/6’s are a waste of space,not to mention the silly 5 series GT,they are of course good drives but zero soul,i would have a C class anyday,mercs may have an arrogance with them but not many of thier model line up look as boring as BMW’s.

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