Opinion: Premium cars are now mainstream in Britain

Ford and Vauxhall are under attack in Britain - by Mercedes-Benz and BMW. There's now a hair's breadth between them in the new car registrations chart, as Brits trade mainstream for premium

Mercedes-Benz

The September new car registrations figures are out, and many big car brands are gloomy despite the on-paper increase in the second-best month of the year for new cars.

It’s easy to see why: volumes fell by over 87,000 cars last year; in 2019, just 4,421 of them have been recovered, with the market up a measly 1.3 percent.

Brexit is behind it, says the Society of Motor Manufactures and Traders (SMMT). Chief executive Mike Hawes told the BBC car makers need it “like a hole in the head”.

But some big carmakers are suffering not just because of Brexit, but because the tastes of UK car buyers have shifted. We want premium badges and value for money: the brands in between are suffering as a result.

Back in 2009, for example, Ford had a market share of over 17 percent. In September 2019, this fell to less than 10 percent. And Vauxhall, which once vied with Ford for the top spot, is now back in fourth place, on 7.9 percent.

This is despite the Corsa being Britain’s most popular car in September, with the Fiesta in second. 

What sits between Ford and Vauxhall? Those icons of premium luxury, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, with 8.8 percent and 8.1 percent market share respectively.

September 2019 new car market share

  1. Ford: 9.4%
  2. Mercedes-Benz: 8.8%
  3. BMW: 8.1%
  4. Vauxhall: 7.9% 

Premium brands are pretty much as popular as two stalwarts of the British new car market. And the shift shows little sign of tailing off: how long before Mercedes-Benz or BMW actually overtake Ford to become Britain’s favourite car brand?

Dacia, meanwhile, grew 75 percent in September, and MG was up 35 percent. Both like to say ‘value’ is their middle name. Kia is nibbling on the heels of Toyota and even Skoda has grown nearly 25 percent, edging closer to a noteworthy 3 percent market share.

Where does this leave those in the middle? Squeezed, certainly… but it’s whether they can fight back that’s the real question. Because as things stand, it won’t be long before premium really is the mainstream norm in Britain.  

Related Articles

Richard Aucockhttps://www.motoringresearch.com/
I'm director at Motoring Research. I run a bit, cycle a bit, have a huge love for the automotive industry.

Latest

Mini to realign with new SUVs, more EVs

The Mini Electric will be joined by a new all-electric compact SUV and a new larger SUV – but petrol and diesel engines will remain.

What is the margin for error of UK speed cameras?

How far beyond the speed limit will a camera flash? We look at the margin of error for speed cameras – and why this threshold exists.

‘Pretty terrible’ electric car charging app to be shut down

The Polar Instant app will be closed down following negative feedback from EV drivers. A new BP Chargemaster app takes its place.

Rolls-Royce Ghost (2020) review

Whether as a driver or passenger, the Rolls-Royce Ghost offers a luxury experience that’s almost unmatched. We enjoy an indulgent day out.