The Polo helped Volkswagen become the #1 brand in the UK four times in 2018.
It’s a second consecutive year of decline for UK new car sales in 2018 at -6.8% to 2.367.147 registrations, the lowest annual volume in the country since 2013 (2.264.737). The market continues to be hampered by Brexit uncertainty affecting business prospects and consumer morale, and this year numerous government measures targeting diesel-powered vehicles have added to the slump. As result, diesel sales (-29.6%) have continued to flounder at 750.165 and 31.7% share vs. 42% in 2017, to the advantage of petrol sales (+8.7%) at 1.475.712 and 62.3% share vs. 53.4% a year ago. Alternatively Fueled Vehicles (AFV) soars 20.9% to 141.270 units and 6% share vs. 4.6% in 2017. All distribution channels perform similarly, with fleet sales (-7.3%) remaining dominant at 1.222.849 units and 51.7% share vs. 51.9% a year ago, private sales (-6.4%) down to 1.052.202 and 44.5% share vs. 44.2% and business sales (-5.6%) down to 92.096 and 3.9% share vs. 3.8%.
UK annual sales 2002-2018. Source SMMT
In the brands ranking, Ford (-11.6%) is hit full frontal but remains in the lead at 10.7% share ahead of Volkswagen (-2.6%) improving to 8.6% of the market. Under these seemingly mundane evolution hides a historical shift: Volkswagen became the best-selling carmaker in the UK for the first time in history in June, repeating this feat three times: in July, August and November. After freefalling 22% in 2017, Vauxhall (-9.1%) slows down its decline but still loses share to 7.5%, now realty threatened by Mercedes (-4.8%) and BMW (-1.7%) both at 7.3%. In fact, Vauxhall only managed to rank on the monthly podium five times – in January (#2), March (#3), May (#3), September (#3), December (#3) – whereas both Mercedes and BMW broke their all-time ranking and share records this year. Mercedes held 8.9% of the UK market in September, ranking #2 then, while BMW shot up to a stellar 9.8% in June, missing out on the pole position for a mere 239 sales! Audi (-17.9%) feels the brunt of a devastating post-WLTP hangover even though it managed to climb to #3 three times this year: in April and during the pre-WLTP-boosted months of July and August. Nissan (-32.1%) is the hardest hit in the Top 30 whereas Kia (+2.7%) manages the only year-on-year gain in the Top 10 and both Toyota (-0.1%) and Hyundai (-3.7%) improve their share year-on-year. Below, MG (+103.8%) thanks to the ZS crossover, Mitsubishi (+31.5%), Abarth (+26.8%), Subaru (+17.2%), Seat (+12%), McLaren (+10.4%), Volvo (+9.1%), Jaguar (+4.1%) and Mazda (+1.3%) are the only gainers in the Top 40. Alpine lands at #42 with 142 sales, but Infiniti (-78.7%), DS (-44.1%), Smart (-26.1%), Maserati (-23.8%), Ssangyong (-23.3%), Fiat (-19.8%) and Alfa Romeo (-16.7%) suffer greatly.
The Ford Fiesta marks 10 consecutive years at #1.
Model-wise, after a year 2017 perturbed by a generation changeover, the Ford Fiesta (+1.4%) stabilises its sales and returns above 4% share, marking a 10th consecutive year in pole position and 13 years at #1 in total for the nameplate. The VW Golf (-13.1%) comfortably remains at a record 2nd place but was up 9% halfway through the year before being hit by post-WLTP blues. The Vauxhall Corsa (+0.3%) enables the brand to stay afloat, up two spots on 2017 and exchanging positions with the Ford Focus (-27.8%) whose new generation, on sale since August, hasn’t helped in the least. The Corsa however slipped out of the Top 10 in February, August and October while the Focus did so in July and August, the first times the Focus disappeared from the UK monthly Top 10 since since the nameplate launched back in 1998, that’s 20 years ago. The Nissan Qashqai (-21.3%) remains at a record 4th place despite a ghastly drop. The VW Polo (-5.7%) is up one spot to equal its record ranking at #6, also hit in 2015. It broke into the UK podium for the first time in July, reiterated the feat in August and improved to #2 in December.
The Mercedes A-Class signed its first UK monthly podiums in 2018.
At #7, the Mini (-5.8%) is also at its equal-highest since its reboot in 2000, also hit in 2009, and peaked at #3 in December. As a reminder, the ‘original’ Mini, sold under a succession of brands (Austin Morris, BMC…), reached an all-time best of #2 in 1971 and remained inside the annual UK Top 10 until 1981. The Mercedes A-Class (-0.4%) is up two ranks to a record #8, leaping onto its first ever UK podium in September and staying there until November. Both the Ford Kuga (+3%) and Kia Sportage (-10.4%) sign their first ever annual Top 10 finish at #9 and #10 respectively, with the Kuga peaking at #4 in August, a new record. Finally, the VW Tiguan broke into the monthly Top 10 for the first time in July (#9) then into the Top 5 in October (#4) but missed out on a Top 10 finish. An artificially pre-WLTP-boosted August saw the first ever monthly UK Top 10 finishes by a Seat (the Ibiza at #6) and a Suzuki (Swift at #8) as well as a record-breaking Honda Fit (#7). A big event: for the first time in the history of the nameplate, the Vauxhall Astra is out of the annual Top 10. While it ended 2017 in 6th place, it only managed to crack the monthly Top 10 once: in December. The Astra ranked #9 for its first year in market in 1981 and was inside the Top 10 every year up until 2017.
First ever annual Top 10 for the Ford Kuga.
Two years ago: UK 2016: Second annual record in a row despite Brexit
Full Year 2018 Top 43 brands and Top 10 models vs. Full Year 2017 figures below.
Full December 2018 Top 43 brands and Top 10 models below.