Nissan Motor UK Covid-secure car production

Car industry calls for support as 1 in 6 jobs at risk

Nissan Motor UK Covid-secure car production

Up to 1 in 6 people jobs in the UK automotive industry are at risk of redundancy if a dedicated support package is not forthcoming, the sector’s trade body has warned.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has called for cuts in VAT, unfettered access to emergency funding and a permanent part-time furlough scheme.

The organisation also wants policies that would boost consumer confidence – but has stopped short of specifying a new car scrappage scheme.

“UK automotive is fundamentally strong,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

“However, the prolonged shutdown has squeezed liquidity and the pressures are becoming more acute.”

A third of the UK automotive industry is still on furlough, said Mr Hawes – “we want those staff coming back to work, not into redundancy”.

The organisation is asking for a government support package similar to that seen in other countries.

In its 2020 Summit held today, the SMMT will reveal that 6,000 automotive jobs have already been lost in June alone.

Brexit is back

UK Automotive Manufacturing Jobs by region

Brexit is another concern for the SMMT. The coronavirus crisis is dominating and “the industry has not the resource, the time nor the clarity to prepare for a further shock of a hard Brexit,” said Mr Hawes.

The organisation wants the government to “turbocharge the negotiations to secure a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU”.

A no-deal Brexit could see UK new car production falling to 850,000 vehicles a year by 2025 – a low not seen since 1953.

This would cost the economy £40 billion.

In contrast, securing a Free Trade Agreement would boost production back to 1.35 million vehicles by 2025 – taking it back to pre-crisis levels.


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New car sales fall 89% in May 2020

Hyundai Minstergate York new car showroom

The new car market was badly affected once again by the coronavirus crisis in May 2020, with the latest figures showing an 89 percent plunge in registrations.

Just 20,247 new cars were registered as showrooms remained closed due to lockdown measures.

These vehicles were delivered mainly through innovative new ‘click and collect’ processes.

For the second month running, the Tesla Model 3 was Britain’s best-selling car.

Alternative fuel vehicles, including electric cars, hybrids and plug-in hybrids, actually took a bigger market share than diesel cars, claiming more than 19 percent of the market. 

Worst since 1952

In May 2019, over 183,000 new cars hit the road, according to the official figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

May 2020, by contrast, was the worst May on record since 1952.

Car showrooms reopened on Monday 1 June and retailers are reporting good business, which the car industry hopes will signal a recovery in new car sales.

In April 2020, just 4,321 new cars were registered: a 97 percent decline.

The electric Tesla Model 3 became the UK’s best-selling new car, with the Jaguar I-Pace (also an EV) in second place.

Year-to-date, the UK new car market has more than halved in size compared to 2019. 

“After a second month of shutdown and the inevitable yet devastating impact on the market, this week’s reopening of dealerships is a pivotal moment for the entire industry,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

“Early reports suggest there is good business given the circumstances, although it is far too early to tell how demand will pan out over the coming weeks and months.”

Not surprising

Auto Trader commercial director Ian Plummer said the figures were not surprising but insisted the market was paused, not stopped. “Now, it’s clearly restarting.”

Pent up demand was considerable, he said, with Auto Trader audience numbers now back up to pre-coronavirus levels.

“There remain question marks, though, about the sustainability of this demand over the mid-term.

“There are growing calls for government incentives to support the industry.”

Germany and France have already acted, said Mr Plummer: the UK “will now need to act fast to keep pace”.

May 2020: Top 10 best-selling cars

1: Tesla Model 3

2: Vauxhall Corsa

3: Ford Fiesta

4: Mercedes-Benz A-Class

5: Ford Focus

6: Volvo XC40

7: BMW 1 Series

8: Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

9: Ford Kuga

10: Mercedes-Benz E-Class


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Used car forecourt

Used car sales plummet as virus causes worst March on record

Used car forecourt

Used car sales are the latest motoring sector to be badly affected by the ongoing coronavirus crisis as gains in early 2020 were wiped out by a huge 30.7 percent decline in March.

It was the worst March on record and leaves the UK used car market down 8.3 percent in Q1 2020.

This is despite lockdown only impacting nine days of March sales. 

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show 1.8 million vehicles changed hands.

As ever, the Ford Fiesta emerged as Britain’s most popular used car, with more than 81,000 used examples sold. The Vauxhall Corsa was second, ahead of the Ford Focus.

Sales of used plug-in electric vehicles were up 13.6 percent and hybrids were up 11.5 percent.

While both petrol and diesel declined, they still accounted for 97.9 percent of all used car transactions in Q1 2020.

As for used car prices, they are holding surprisingly firm despite the weak marketplace. At £13,601, the average used car price is down only 0.2 percent versus the 2019 figure.

Cars ‘even more important’

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said coronavirus measures wiped out used car growth and warned “this subdued activity is likely to continue into the second quarter”. 

However, there was a positive prediction, too. “The impact of social distancing requirements on public transport means that, for many people, the car will play an even more important role in helping them travel safely to work.

“Reopening new and used car outlets will support this, enabling more of the latest, cleanest vehicles to filter through to second owners and help support the UK’s green growth agenda.”

New car marketplace Auto Trader’s commercial director Ian Plummer said its own research indicated “the market is paused, not stopped, as many consumers are eager to buy their next car when they can.

“More than half of commuters previously using public transport, with a driving licence, expect to buy a car for their commute post-lockdown.”  

Best selling used cars: Q1 2020

1: Ford Fiesta

2: Vauxhall Corsa

3: Ford Focus

4: Volkswagen Golf

5: Vauxhall Astra

6: BMW 3 Series

7: Mini

8: Volkswagen Polo

9: Audi A3

10: Renault Clio


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Mike Hawes

Car industry risks ‘death by a thousand cuts’ without Brexit rethink

Mike HawesProgress on Brexit needs to speed up in order to allay growing automotive industry concerns and address a marked slowdown in investment, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has warned.

The automotive industry trade body is today presenting its latest report on the health of the UK car sector, which shows that manufacturing turnover hit a record £82 billion in 2017. However, it says this success risks being reversed without the speedy conclusion of a deal that clarifies Britain’s regulatory and customs relations with the EU.

Already in 2018, inward investment in the car industry has suffered a marked slowdown. Less than £350 million has been committed to new models and factories in the UK – that’s half the amount invested in the first half of 2017. Production output has slowed and there have been job cuts.

“There is growing frustration in global boardrooms at the slow pace of negotiations,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. “The current position, with conflicting messages and red lines, goes directly against the interests of the UK automotive sector which has thrived on single market and customs union membership.

‘No Brexit dividend for cars’

Vauxhall Ellesmere Port

“There is no credible ‘plan B’ for frictionless customs arrangements, nor is it realistic to expect that new trade deals can be agreed with the rest of the world that will replicate the immense value of trade with the EU.”

Hawes’ demand was stark: “Government must rethink its position on the customs union.

“There is no Brexit dividend for our industry, particularly in what is an increasingly hostile and protectionist global trading environment. Our message to government is that until it can demonstrate exactly how a new model for customs and trade with the EU can replicate the benefits we currently enjoy, don’t change it.”

Speaking earlier to the BBC, Hawes said the risk was “death by a thousand cuts”. The slowdown in investment would lead to a weakening of the UK car industry as manufacturers invested elsewhere. 

“With decisions on new vehicle models in the UK due soon,” said the SMMT, “government must take steps to boost investor confidence and safeguard the thousands of jobs that depend on the sector.”

Ford Fiesta

Diesel sales down a quarter as green cars hit new high

Ford Fiesta

New car registrations recorded a small 3.4 percent rise during May 2018, reports the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). However, this wasn’t enough to offset a year-to-date decline of almost seven percent. 

Diesel once again bore the brunt of consumers’ scorn with overall sales down 23.6 percent. That’s the 14th consecutive month of decline for diesel.

Petrol registrations were up 23.5 percent and alternative fuel cars (that’s electric and hybrid) rose by a third, albeit from a small base. Even so, the 5.8 percent market share of hybrids and plug-ins is a new UK record; 11,240 alternative-fuel cars were sold in May.

The AFV breakdown shows a 72.7 percent rise for plug-in hybrids, a 22.6 percent boost for hybrids, but a more modest 18.7 percent boost for EVs.

Private sales rose by 10.1 percent, up to more than 83,000 cars. By contrast, the business and fleet sectors, declined 9.6 percent and 0.7 percent respectively.

Superminis were the most popular type of new car (up six percent), while the hottest May on record resulted in a big boost for convertibles – up 11.7% year-on-year.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “May’s growth, albeit on the back of large declines last year, is encouraging and suggests the market is now starting to return to a more natural running rate.

“Now it’s time for government officials to show common-sense,” he added. “To ensure long-term stability, we need to avoid any further disruption to the market, and this will require sustainable policies that give consumers and businesses the confidence to invest in the new cars that best suit their needs.

“Fleet renewal is the fastest way to improve air quality and reduce CO2, and this applies to hybrid and plug-in technologies as well as the latest low emission petrol and diesels which, for many drivers, remain the right choice economically and environmentally.”

May 2018 top 10 best-sellers

1: Ford Fiesta

2: Ford Focus

3: Volkswagen Golf

4: Nissan Qashqai

5: Volkswagen Polo

6: Vauxhall Corsa

7: Mini

8: Mercedes-Benz C-Class

9: Mercedes-Benz A-Class

10: Audi A3

Read more:

Ford Fiesta

UK new car registrations down 20% as VED changes introduced

Ford Fiesta

New car registrations plummeted by 19.8% in April as new car tax rates were introduced.

That’s according to data released this morning by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) which shows 152,076 new cars were registered last month – making it the worst April since 2012.

The new VED rates, which were brought into force on on 1 April 2017, introduced a flat-rate of £140 for all petrol and diesel vehicles after the first year, compared to the CO2-based system used previously.

While electric cars continue to be tax-free, alternative-fuel vehicles including hybrid and plug-in hybrid models face a £130 yearly fee. This has resulted in the first downturn in alternatively-fuelled car registrations in nearly four years, as registrations dropped by 1.3% compared to April 2016.

“With the rush to register new cars and avoid VED tax rises before the end of March, as well as fewer selling days due to the later Easter, April was always going to be much slower,” said SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes. “It’s important to note that the market remains at record levels as customers still see many benefits in purchasing a new car. We therefore expect demand to stabilise over the year as the turbulence created by these tax changes decreases.”

Registrations by private buyers were down by 28.4%, while businesses and large fleets also registered fewer cars (-21.0% and -12.3% respectively).

Despite the substantial hit in April, the SMMT says the overall new car market remains ‘strong’, with registrations over the first four months of 2017 up 1.1% compared to 2016.

April 2017 best sellers top 10

  1. Ford Fiesta: 4,957
  2. Nissan Qashqai: 4,430
  3. Mercedes-Benz C-Class: 3,777
  4. Mercedes-Benz A-Class: 3,608
  5. Ford Focus: 3,421
  6. Vauxhall Astra: 3,346
  7. Volkswagen Golf: 3,223
  8. Audi A3: 3,000
  9. Volkswagen Polo: 2,800
  10. BMW 1 Series: 2,740
Revealed: Britain’s favourite car brands in 2016

Revealed: Britain’s favourite car brands in 2016

Revealed: Britain’s favourite car brands in 2016

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has revealed its official car sales figures for 2016 – and they make for fascinating reading. Can you guess the brand that has more than doubled sales in 2016, for example? What about the one that has taken a 19% nosedive? Read on to discover which car companies are starting 2017 in a good mood…

Abarth: UP 44.6%

It’s been a storming 2016 for Fiat’s performance brand, which has seen a 44.6% sales increase versus 2015 – up to 3,966 cars. The new Abarth 124 Spider sports car, which shares its platform with the Mazda MX-5, has undoubtedly helped.

Alfa Romeo: DOWN 3.7%

The critically-acclaimed new Giulia saloon should boost Alfa sales over the coming year. Unfortunately, it arrived too late to make an impact in 2016, and the number of Alfa Romeos sold was down 3.7% to 4,881 cars.

Aston Martin: DOWN 4.5%

This independent British manufacturer shifted 906 cars in 2016, a 4.5% decrease compared with the year before. However, the promised Aston SUV – to be built in Wales – should see sales ramp up significantly in future.

Audi: UP 6.4%

Audi: UP 6.4%

Audi’s range has expanded to the point that being one of its salespeople requires Mastermind-levels of product knowledge. With so many cars to choose from, including the new Q2 small SUV, it’s no surprise that sales are up. Audi sold 177,304 cars in total.

Bentley: UP 41.3%

If in doubt, build a new 4×4. That’s the strategy most upmarket carmakers have taken in recent years, and Bentley is a case in point. The new Bentayga helped it to a 41.3% leap in just one year, with 1,948 cars sold in 2016.

BMW: UP 9.1%

The 3 Series may be showing its age, but that hasn’t stopped BMW recording a respectable 9.1% increase in 2016. In fact, it edges ahead of its arch-rival overall, with 182,593 BMWs sold versus 177,304 Audis. Mercedes-Benz follows with 169,828 sales.

Chrysler: DOWN 100%

No surprises here, Chrysler has quit the UK (tail firmly between its legs), so it sold zero new cars in 2016, compared with 167 in 2015. Do we miss it? Not really.

Citroen: DOWN 21.3%

Citroen: DOWN 21.3%

Citroen’s figures included DS models until May 2015, but the two badges are now considered separately – hence Citroen’s apparent 21.3% sales drop – down to 62,991 cars. In reality, the marque has it strongest range of cars in years, with a new C3 leading the charge into 2017.

Dacia: UP 1.0%

There was much scepticism from motoring journalists when Renault’s back-to-basics budget brand arrived in the UK. However, Dacia has found its niche and sales are remaining steady. An impressive 26,499 new Dacias found owners last year.

DS: UP 84.6%

As noted previously, DS is now counted separately from Citroen, meaning it appears to have vastly increased its volumes last year. As ever, the bulk of sales come from the DS 3 supermini, but plenty of new models are promised. A total of 15,898 cars were sold.

Fiat: DOWN 5.7%

A three-star Euro NCAP safety rating for the new Tipo won’t have helped Fiat’s cause in 2016. Nor, frankly, does a 500 city car that has only been mildly updated since 2007. The Italian carmaker’s showrooms were slightly quieter this year, with 60,581 cars sold.

Ford: DOWN 5.1%

Ford: DOWN 5.1%

Ford remains the UK’s favourite car brand, with an 11.8% market share – much of that from the Fiesta and Focus alone. Nonetheless, its sales were down to 318,316 cars in 2016. Perhaps the 2017 Fiesta will revive them?

Honda: UP 10.7%

Honda launched a lot of new cars in 2015 and it has reaped the benefits in 2016. Sales figures are up 10.7% and the new HR-V crossover is proving particularly popular. In all, 59,106 Hondas found new homes.

Hyundai: UP 4.9%

Hyundai’s range of cars is getting more interesting. The latest i30 (pictured) is stylish and capable, while the Ioniq is available in all-electric, hybrid or plug-in hybrid guises – a first. The latest Tucson is a credible Qashqai-rival, too. Sales were up to 92,419 cars in 2016.

Infiniti: UP 141.9%

Wow. Infiniti has shown the biggest sales gain in 2016, up a whopping 141.9%. However, don’t forget that Nissan’s luxury brand started from a pretty low base: 1,195 cars in 2015. Last year, it managed 2,891 sales, helped by the new Sunderland-built Q30 crossover.

Jaguar: UP 45.4%

Jaguar: UP 45.4%

Jaguar sales are up… can you guess why? Yes, it’s built an SUV – the first in its history, in fact. The F-Pace, along with the XE saloon, boosted Jag volumes by 45.4% in 2016. It shifted 34,822 cars in total.

Jeep: UP 30.5%

A 30.5% boost is good news for Jeep – up to 14,090 cars in 2016 – even if the increase comes almost entirely from the Renegade. This Fiat 500X-based small SUV looks the part, and has some off-road ability. It’s pretty forgettable to drive, though.

Kia: UP 13.9%

The Kia Sportage was the 12th best-selling car in the UK last year, which helped its maker to a 13.9% sales increase overall. A total of 89,364 new Kias found owners in 2016. Will the arrival of the updated Picanto city car (pictured) boost that further this year?

Land Rover: UP 19.5%

Land Rover attributes some of its success to the Range Rover Evoque, which was up 31% last year (thanks to the new convertible, perhaps?). The British brand recorded a 19.5% increase overall, lifting its sales to 79,534 cars.

Lexus: UP 4.9%

Lexus: UP 4.9%

The news isn’t so positive for its parent company, Toyota, but Lexus starts 2017 with a smile – and sales up 4.9%. Nonetheless, with 13,915 cars registered, the Japanese marque has a long way to go before it troubles Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz.

Lotus: DOWN 9.6%

There’s a lot of love for Lotus in the MR office, but the Great British Public is more sceptical. Sales of these superb sports cars were down 9.6% in 2016, with just 339 registered – less than one car a day.

Maserati: UP 0.1%

An entry-level Ghibli diesel and the new Levante SUV haven’t helped Maserati meet its targets. Sales remained stagnant, with just a single additional car sold in 2016 versus the year before – 1,435 cars in total.

Mazda: UP 2.4%

We reckon Mazda has one of best ranges of cars on sale – from the 2 supermini to the MX-5 roadster – so it’s gratifying to see sales up 2.4% in 2016. It sold 46,609 cars in total.

Mercedes-Benz: UP 16.9%

Mercedes-Benz: UP 16.9%

The fifth-generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class went on sale in 2016, and that – along with a very successful C-Class – will have helped contribute to Mercedes-Benz registrations increasing by almost 17%.

MG: UP 33%

MG sales shot up a third last year with the launch of its GS crossover. But when sales in 2015 were a smidgen more than 3,000, that’s not a hard figure to improve on. The company’s given up the pretence of producing cars in the UK at the historic Longbridge site, which might harm its chances of improving sales in 2017. That and the fact its cars fall short compared to rivals.

MINI: UP 8.5%

The fashionable MINI brand is showing no sign of losing its appeal any time soon – with sales up 8.5% to nearly 69,000 cars in 2016. The MINI Hatch was the eighth most popular car last year, and the fifth most popular in December.

Mitsubishi: DOWN 19.6%

The danger of a small model line-up is reflected in Mitsubishi’s sales, which were down a hefty 19.6% in 2016. The once-popular Outlander PHEV has been attracted a deal of bad publicity, with many complaining about poor fuel consumption and short electric range. Incentives for plug-in hybrids are being reduced as well, while other Mitsubishi models such as the Mirage and Shogun just don’t stack up against rivals.

Nissan: DOWN 0.9%

Nissan: DOWN 0.9%

Despite its Qashqai being one of the top 10 best-selling cars in 2016, Nissan sales saw a small decrease in 2016. We saw its new Micra at last year’s Paris Motor Show, and first impressions are incredibly positive – it looks to be a huge improvement over the outgoing model. If it can attract even a slice of the Fiesta’s sales, it’ll be a good result for Nissan.

Peugeot: DOWN 5.5%

Sales were down 5.5% to 98,529 cars for Peugeot in the UK last year, but it’ll be pinning its hopes on the new 2008 and 3008 SUVs for 2017. The French manufacturer has taken the radical step of replacing its frumpy MPVs with desirable crossovers – we’ll see if that pays off.

Porsche: UP 7.6%

In the year that Britain voted for Brexit, we also bought more Porsches than the year before. That’s despite controversially giving the Cayman and Boxster turbo power – while we continue to buy the Macan by the bucketload. A total of 13,097 Porsches were sold.

Renault: UP 12.5%

It’s been a good year for Renault in the UK (85,102 cars sold), and that success is likely to continue following the launch of its desirable new Scenic people carrier (yes, we did call an MPV ‘desirable’). The Scenic will sit alongside the popular Captur and Kadjar crossover in Renault’s range.



It’s bad news for VW’s Spanish brand, with sales down a smidgen to 47,456 cars last year. Ageing models such as the Leon and Ibiza could explain the falling figures, but SEAT’s fortunes are likely to change in 2017. The new Ateca crossover is now on sale, while the Ibiza is due to be replaced in summer and the Leon is receiving a facelift.

Skoda: UP 7.6%

The days of pre-Volkswagen Skoda feel a long time ago now, with sales passing 80,000 in the UK last year. Models such as the Octavia represent excellent value for money, and Skodas are often available with tempting finance deals. Sales don’t seem to have been hit by the Dieselgate emissions scandal.

Smart: UP 42.2%

Smart is showing no sign of becoming last year’s fad, with sales up an impressive 42.2% in 2016. Tempting finance deals on its ForTwo two-seater combined with a general move towards smaller vehicles across the board help to explain Smart’s rise in popularity.

SsangYong: UP 32.9%

SsangYong isn’t a big player in the UK, but it does offer tough, low-cost 4x4s. It’s seen a rise in popularity in 2016 – up to 4,444 cars – no doubt helped by its affordable Tivoli crossover.

Subaru: UP 4.5%

Subaru: UP 4.5%

Subaru sales are up 4.5% compared to 2015, but we’re still not talking massive numbers, with 3,612 cars registered in 2016. Subaru remains a relatively niche manufacturer here in the UK, with models such as the Outback and Levorg. Most Subaru buyers hold onto their cars longer than those of other manufacturers – meaning Subaru’s slow sales could, in part, be down to the loyalty of its customers.

Suzuki: UP 10.8%

Plucky Suzuki has boosted UK sales by more than 10% in 2016. That success is likely down to the excellent value offered by models such as the Swift and Celerio, while the Vitara is a commendable crossover. We’re huge fans of the new Ignis – hopefully its quirky looks won’t put off UK buyers in 2017.

Toyota: DOWN 2.0%

Sales were down a little for Japanese firm Toyota in 2016 (96,746 cars sold). A reputation for reliability means it has a loyal customer base, and a trendy new crossover in the form of the C-HR could poach customers from other manufacturers this year.

Vauxhall: DOWN 7.0%

Bad news for GM’s British strand, registrations of new Vauxhalls were down 7.0% to 269,766 cars in 2016. This could partly be down to the ongoing fires issues plaguing models including the Corsa – which clung onto its position as the UK’s second best-selling car, despite seeing a fall in sales of nearly 15,000.

Volkswagen: DOWN 7.5%

Volkswagen: DOWN 7.5%

It’s been another turbulent year for Volkswagen, so it’s no surprise to see sales down 7.5%. But it could have been a lot worse – indeed, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes told us he thought it has been “a very good year for Volkswagen”. It’ll be interesting to see whether buyers start to forget about Dieselgate in 2017 – a year the brand has described as “very exciting”.

Volvo: UP 7.5%

With new models including the brilliant XC90, V90 and S90, it’s no surprise that 2016 was a very strong year for Volvo. It sold 46,696 cars last year – and a new XC60 expected in summer 2017 could boost sales figures even more.

Revealed: Britain’s top 20 best-selling cars in 2016

Revealed: Britain’s top 20 best-selling cars in 2016

Revealed: Britain’s top 20 best-selling cars in 2016

Figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reveal that new car registrations in the UK hit a record high in 2016, with more of us buying new cars than ever before. That success is largely down to tempting finance packages, along with a wide choice of new models – but which cars are the most popular in the UK? We’ve analysed the data to pick out the top 20 best-selling cars in 2016.

20: Peugeot 208

The 208 was launched back in 2012, but some great deals – including Peugeot’s ‘Just add fuel’ offer – keep it inside the UK’s top 20 best-selling cars. Rivals include the Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio and VW Polo.

Engines for the 208 range from a three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol to the 1.6 GTI. There are plenty of MINI-style personalisation options available, while Peugeot’s trademark small steering wheel provides a sporty feel. A total of 28,146 Peugeot 208s were sold in 2016.

19: Toyota Yaris

The Yaris has been around in various guises since 1999, and this third-generation car was launched in 2011. Reliability and interior space are two of its key strengths. And unlike most superminis, it’s available as a hybrid. Toyota shifted 30,741 last year.

The petrol/electric Yaris Hybrid would be our choice. It isn’t cheap to buy, but it costs pennies to run. CO2 emissions of just 75g/km (on the smallest wheels) mean you won’t pay any road tax – at least until the rules change in April 2017.

18: BMW 1 Series

18: BMW 1 Series

The 1 Series seemed a brave move when first launched in 2004. However, it soon proved that the premium BMW badge could sit happily on a family hatchback, and 34,379 UK buyers took one home last year. What will they make of the next, front-wheel-drive 1 Series? We’ll find out in 2018.

BMW has covered all bases in the engine department. The line-up stretches from the ultra-efficient 116d diesel (83.1mpg and 89g/km of CO2) to the 140i hot hatch (0-62mph in 4.6 seconds). Whichever engine you choose, the 1er is fun to drive. Just don’t expect class-leading space for passengers or luggage.

17: Vauxhall Mokka X

This Corsa-based crossover was rebranded ‘Mokka X’ in 2016, becoming the UK’s 17th bestselling car in 2016 in the process. In total, 34,809 left Vauxhall showrooms last year. The Mokka X is is larger and more practical than its main rival, the Nissan Juke – but still noticeably smaller than Nissan’s other popular crossover: the Qashqai.

Unlike many cars of its ilk, the Mokka is available with four-wheel drive. It’s well equipped and spacious enough for a family of four. However, it’s utterly yawn-inducing to drive.

16: Fiat 500

Young buyers love the Fiat 500 – which is why the Italian manufacturer has barely messed with the formula since it was launched in 2007. It’s not the best city car available, but it’s comfortably the best-selling in its segment.

A respectable 35,148 Fiat 500s were registered in the UK last year. Rivals such as the Skoda Citigo and Hyundai i20 didn’t even make the top 20.

15: Ford Kuga

15: Ford Kuga

Ford is by far the UK’s most popular manufacturer, but its mid-size Kuga SUV is often overlooked by buyers. Tempting deals help sales, however – and a facelift in 2016 might cement its place in the top 15 for this year.

New for the Kuga is Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system and 1.5-litre diesel engine, along with a refreshed appearance. Will it remain in 15th place in 2017?

14: BMW 3 Series

While the BMW 3 Series is a company car driver favourite, it’s a surprise to see it lagging behind a certain rival which appears five places ahead in the rankings. That’ll partly be down to the age of the current F30 3 Series. Launched in 2011, the sixth-generation model is starting to feel old.

It’s still one of our favourite cars in its segment, however, and keen drivers love a BMW 3 Series. With 36,732 registrations in 2016, it’s also in a position that even the Jaguar XE would love to be in – the British 3 Series rival isn’t to be seen in the top 20.

13: Nissan Juke

The Nissan Juke divided opinion when it was launched in 2010 – some just couldn’t get past its bold appearance. But those who could found a funky, fun-to-drive crossover that’s tempting buyers away from traditional superminis.

While the Juke lives in the shadow of the larger Qashqai, a solid 13th place ranking and 38,803 registrations is commendable. In fact, it was the best-selling compact crossover in the UK in 2016. Now that’s something to tell your friends about.

12: Kia Sportage

12: Kia Sportage

The striking new Kia Sportage was launched in 2016, and already sales seem to be off to a flying start – they’re everywhere on UK roads. Despite the production switchover, the Sportage was Britain’s second most popular crossover last year.

An attractive start price of £18,250, combined with good practicality and commendable efficiency make the Kia Sportage worthy of its 12th place in the UK 2016 sales rankings. A total of 40,083 new Kia Sportages were registered last year.

11: Mercedes-Benz A-Class

The A-Class is a competent compact executive – although we’d buy an Audi A3 or BMW 1 Series over the baby Merc.

UK car buyers disagree with us, though – in terms of the BMW 1 Series at least. The A-Class edges ahead of the BMW with 41,183 registrations in 2016, narrowly avoiding the top 10. But how does the Audi A3 fare?

10: Audi A3

The top 10 kicks off with the popular Audi A3. It’s no surprise to see Audi’s hatchback here – fleet drivers and private buyers alike love the A3, and there’s a bodystyle and engine to suit everyone.

A total of 43,808 Audi A3s were registered in 2016 – that’s out of more than 177,000 Audis sold overall. Despite being rocked by the Dieselgate emissions scandal, the total number of cars sold by the German manufacturer increased by more than 6%.

9: Mercedes-Benz C Class

9: Mercedes-Benz C Class

In ninth place is the Mercedes-Benz C Class. You might be surprised to see premium manufacturers such as Mercedes in the top 10, but they’re increasingly affordable. Low depreciation means premium cars can actually work out cheaper to ‘own’ over three years, meaning lower PCP and PCH finance deals can be offered.

Mercedes-Benz registered 44,184 C-Class models in 2016, marginally more than the number of new Audi A3s. It’s interesting that it outsold competitors such as the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 – but with the new Audi A4 becoming ever more commonplace on UK roads, will the Mercedes hold onto its position in 2017?


It’s 15 years now since BMW launched the MINI brand – and what a clever move that’s proving to be. The MINI hatch is one of our favourite small cars. It’s genuinely premium inside, while the handling is easily best-in-class.

More than 48,328 MINI hatches were registered in the UK last year, making it easily the brand’s best-selling model. Overall, MINI sold 68,984 cars across the UK in 2016 – up from 63,581 in 2015.

7: Volkswagen Polo

The Volkswagen Polo is due to be replaced this year, but sales of the current model are showing no signs of slowing, with 54,448 registered in the UK in 2016.

The VW Polo comes third in the supermini sales league, behind the Vauxhall Corsa and Ford Fiesta.

6: Vauxhall Astra

6: Vauxhall Astra

The trusty Vauxhall Astra was replaced in 2016, and the new model was a huge improvement over its predecessor. In February, it was crowned the European Car of the Year. Has that success been reflected in its sales?

The Astra has always been a strong seller. Even so, with 60,719 sold last year, it’s still some way behind its arch nemesis, the Ford Focus.

5: Nissan Qashqai

Ah, the untouchable Nissan Qashqai. The Sunderland-built Qashqai has been widely credited as the car to bring crossovers truly into the mainstream, and it’s the only crossover to appear in the top 10.

The Qashqai’s success is deserved – the second-generation model, on sale since 2013, combines excellent practicality and reliability with the price tag of a conventional hatchback. An impressive 62,682 were registered in 2016.

4: Volkswagen Golf

Despite the shock of 2015’s emissions scandal, Volkswagen’s sales in the UK don’t appear to have been hit too heavily. In December alone, 5,355 Volkswagen Golfs were registered – putting it in the top three best-sellers for that month.

Over the entire year, however, it didn’t quite make the top three. An impressive 69,492 Golfs were registered in 2016, only slightly behind its contender from Ford in the sales stakes…

3: Ford Focus

3: Ford Focus

Yes, the ubiquitous Ford Focus takes third position in the UK’s most popular cars of 2016. The Ford Focus has constantly sold well in the UK since it was launched in 1998, and the latest model is great to drive.

A whopping 70,545 were registered last year, with nearly 5,000 passing through dealerships in December alone. But it’s still some way behind the top two…

2: Vauxhall Corsa

If you’ve ever travelled on UK roads you won’t be surprised to read that the Vauxhall Corsa is one of the most popular cars on sale. From grans to boy racers, everyone loves the Corsa, and the latest model is undoubtedly one of the strongest in the supermini segment.

More than 77,000 Vauxhall Corsas were registered in 2016, although a quiet period in December saw it relegated to sixth place for that month. That didn’t affect the Corsa’s yearly sales but, of course, it has a thorn in its side…

1: Ford Fiesta

Yes, the Ford Fiesta, despite being largely unchanged since 2008, it remains Britain’s favourite car by some margin. A staggering 120,525 were registered in 2016, with 8,198 bought in December alone.

That means more than 43,000 more Ford Fiestas were registered in 2016 than Vauxhall Corsas – and almost three times as many Ford Fiestas as Audi A3s. The Fiesta’s replacement is due in 2017 and first impressions are positive – but is it good enough to cling onto number-one spot? Time will tell.

Record new car sales in 2016 - but Brexit could hit industry hard in 2017

Record new car sales in 2016 – but Brexit could hit industry hard in 2017

Record new car sales in 2016 - but Brexit could hit industry hard in 2017

The number of new cars registered in the UK hit a record high last year, with nearly 2.7 million cars sold in 2016.

That’s according to figures released this morning by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) – but the organisation’s chief executive has warned the industry could be in for a ‘lumpy’ ride in 2017.

Speaking at a briefing held in London, Mike Hawes told Motoring Research that he expects the number of new cars registered this year to dip by 5-6% to around 2.55 million.

The trade body chief exec suggested that we might see a spike in new car registrations, particularly for premium cars, in March, as buyers attempt to ‘beat’ the new VED (car tax) bands being introduced in April.

Price rises expected

This is despite Theresa May aiming to trigger Article 50 that month – something which Hawes doesn’t think will in itself have a big effect on numbers. What will have an impact, he said, is price rises caused by the weakness of the pound – an effect the industry has already started to see.

Hawes said: “Ultimately, a fall in sterling is going to flow through to an increase in pricing, probably of the magnitude of 2-3% over the coming months.”

He explained that more than 85% of cars sold in the UK are imported, but customers might not be too concerned about minor price rises. The majority of private car sales involve finance in some way, so a small increase in a car’s list price would result in a tiny rise in monthly repayments.

Some manufacturers might try to soak up the price rise rather than pass it onto customers. This would, however, mean they have smaller margins to work with so might not be able to tempt buyers with impressive finance deals and promotions – something which is partly credited with the success of UK car sales in 2016.

Registrations of diesel cars slump

The figures released this morning also reveal that diesel cars appear to be out of favour, with diesels accounting for 47.7% of all new car registrations – a drop of 0.8% compared to their market share in 2015.  They still sold record numbers overall, however, and Hawes says he doesn’t think this decrease is necessarily down to Dieselgate.

“Supermini and mini [city] car segments are growing,” he said, “and these are usually powered by petrol engines. People are buying more smaller cars and that could explain why we’ve seen a drop in the popularity of diesel.”

He also credited investment in alternatively-fuelled cars and a growing interest in new technology for the drop in diesel car sales.

UK car sales up 3.3% post Brexit vote

UK car market booms despite Brexit vote

UK car sales up 3.3% post Brexit vote

The number of new cars registered in the UK in August increased by 3.3% compared to the same time last year, according to figures released this morning by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

On the face of it, that suggests the automotive sector hasn’t been hit by the UK’s decision to leave the EU – but the number of private customers buying new cars is down by 0.2%. The demand for diesels also took a minor 0.2% knock.

While these figures are marginal – any decrease in a year of steady growth is of interest. So far, more than 1.68 million cars have been registered in the UK in 2016 – up 2.8% compared to this time last year.

SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes said: “August is traditionally one of the quietest months as consumers look ahead to the September plate change, so growth, albeit small, is good news.

“With showrooms full of exciting models featuring the very latest technology and a raft of affordable finance options, it still makes economic sense to consider buying a new car. The key to maintaining this strong market is consumer confidence for which we look to government to deliver the conditions for economic growth.”

Alternatively-fuelled vehicles (such as hybrid and electric cars) saw significant growth of 30.8% in August. Almost 54,000 have been registered so far in 2016, compared with just over 44,000 in the entirety of last year.

The market has been buoyed by the fleet sector, which saw new car registrations increase by 7.7% to 43,267 last month. So far in 2016, fleet accounts for 51% of all registrations.

August’s best-selling cars

  1. Ford Fiesta: 4,547
  2. Ford Focus: 2,519
  3. Vauxhall Corsa: 2,393
  4. Vauxhall Astra: 1,931
  5. Volkswagen Golf: 1,855
  6. Volkswagen Polo: 1,765
  7. Vauxhall Mokka: 1,762
  8. Kia Sportage: 1,540
  9. Ford Kuga: 1,515
  10. Nissan Qashqai: 1,491