Currently reading: Winners and losers in the 2021 UK car market
After another 12 months of adversity, our end-of-year report reveals which car makers in the UK stood firm and which have it all to do

The SMMT expects new car sales in the UK in 2021 to total 1.66 million, amid the chip crisis. That’s just 1.9% ahead of Covid-hit 2020 and 38.3% down on the peak year of 2016. Which brands made the best of a bad situation?

Alfa Romeo - down

2020 market share: 0.13%, 2021 market share: 0.09%

The Giulia and the Stelvio are rock-bottom in their respective segments, selling at one-tenth the rate of the major models.

Alpine - no change

2020 market share: 0.01%, 2021 market share: 0.01%

A110 sales are up, thanks to a host of new special editions, but Alpine’s share is still tiny.

Aston Martin - up

2020 market share: 0.05%, 2021 market share: 0.06%

Sales have increased, thanks to the DBX SUV, but Aston is still losing a lot of money (£188m in the first nine months of 2021). It hopes to be making a decent profit by 2024.

Audi - up

2020 market share: 6.61%, 2021 market share: 7.17%

After a bad period in 2018 and 2019 when WLTP homologation issues limited sales, Audi is now back fighting BMW for top spot among the premium brands. The A3 is its star performer.

Bentley - no change

2020 market share: 0.08%, 2021 market share: 0.08%

UK market share is steady and Bentley is pretty happy overall – 2021 will see record sales and profits globally.

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BMW - up

2020 market share: 7.08%, 2021 market share: 7.16%

Another fine year, with the stars the 3 Series and the X3, which is for the first time outselling Land Rover’s Discovery Sport.

Citroen - up

2020 market share: 1.72%, 2021 market share: 1.87%

The cars that have increased sales are its smallest: the C1 and C3. Given the C1 will soon perish, that doesn’t bode well.

Cupra - up

2020 market share: 0.01%, 2021 market share: 0.46%

Cupra has been on the market for five minutes and already is outselling Alfa and DS. A stylish sporty crossover that feels premium, the Formentor has got off to a very good start.

Dacia - down 

2020 market share: 1.16%, 2021 market share: 1.03%

Dacia’s share may be down, but the new Duster, Jogger and Sandero should lead it to a strong recovery in 2022.

DS - down

2020 market share: 0.15%, 2021 market share: 0.14%

Increasingly looks like a French Alfa (nice heritage, shocking sales). If it didn’t exist, would anyone bother inventing it?

Ferrari - up

2020 market share: 0.06%, 2021 market share: 0.06%

Enthusiasts dream about the cars, financiers of the business model. The best heritage plus the best image plus the most consistent demand equals the highest margins in the industry.

Ford - down

2020 market share: 9.37%, 2021 market share: 7.46%

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Ford of Britain’s annus horribilis. There was always a strong likelihood of Volkswagen overtaking it this year, but no one expected the Blue Oval to be fighting to maintain second place ahead of Audi and BMW. Chip shortage has hit it particularly hard.

Fiat - up

2020 market share: 1.32%, 2021 market share: 1.36%

‘Fiat maintains market share’ is a shock headline these days. With 89.4% of sales coming from 500-branded models, the Fiat badge is starting to look as redundant as putting ‘Morris’ in front of ‘Mini’.

Honda - down

2020 market share: 1.67%, 2021 market share: 1.65%

Having closed its UK factory, Honda has gone into freefall in Europe. Its European share is just 0.6%. Mitsubishi is leaving most European markets, yet it sold more cars than Honda in the first nine months of 2021.

Hyundai - up

2020 market share: 2.91%, 2021 market share: 4.22%

After a terrible 2020, Hyundai is recovering sharply, with rising sales of high-margin products such as the Tucson and Ioniq. However, it’s still a long way behind Kia, which is meant to be the junior brand.

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Jaguar - down

2020 market share: 1.56%, 2021 market share: 1.14%

The official line is that Jaguars that compete directly with German models will be phased out and amazing new models will arrive. The first half of that strategy is definitely on target.

Jeep - no change

2020 market share: 0.28%, 2021 market share: 0.28%

The longest-established brand in the fastest-growing market sector, yet it barely registers. If it had grown in line with the sector over the past 20 years, its share would be over 2%.

Kia - up 

2020 market share: 4.32%, 2021 market share: 5.71%

Kia is set to outsell Vauxhall this year, while the Sportage is running neck-and-neck with Nissan’s Qashqai. Since 2015, Kia has been adding a yearly average of 0.4% to its share.

Land Rover - down

2020 market share: 3.59%, 2021 market share: 3.28%

Smaller models are suffering (the Range Rover Evoque is behind the Volvo XC40 and the Discovery Sport is behind the Volvo XC60), but the Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Defender are all doing well.

Lexus - up 

2020 market share: 0.84%, 2021 market share: 0.86%

After two years of solid growth, Lexus has stabilised. Lexus’s hybrid technology no longer looks like an industry leader when everyone’s focus is now on going fully electric.

Lotus - no change

2020 market share: 0.01%, 2021 market share: 0.01%

Next year will be all-important for Lotus: the new Emira will show if the brand can make its first commercially successful sports car since the 1996 Elise.

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Maserati - up

2020 market share: 0.04%, 2021 market share: 0.05%

Maserati’s target is to compete with the higher-end models of the German premium brands, from the BMW 530 upwards. It’s doubtful that the Germans have ever even noticed.

Mazda - up

2020 market share: 1.39%, 2021 market share: 1.60%

Mazda’s share has recovered this year, thanks to the new CX-30 SUV. It’s still pursuing its clever Skyactiv-X engine tech, but is it today’s answer to yesterday’s question?

Mercedes-Benz - down

2020 market share: 6.80%, 2021 market share: 6.01%

Mercedes-Benz suffered an uncharacteristic wobble this year, mainly due to the changeover to the new C-Class and the ageing GLC. However, it would be rash to bet against it in the medium term.

MG Motor - up

2020 market share: 1.13%, 2021 market share: 1.92%

In but three years, MG has gone from 0.4% to 1.9% – the sort of growth normally associated with Tesla. Can it consolidate this remarkable progress?

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Mini - down

2020 market share: 2.83%, 2021 market share: 2.59%

Mini has fallen, but its share is close to its long-term average and its brand (compact, urban and premium) is well aligned to wider global market trends.

Nissan - down

2020 market share: 4.41%, 2021 market share: 4.04%

The Juke is in second place in small crossovers – good, except the Ford Puma sells 60% more. The new Qashqai needs to ramp up sales quickly if it’s going to get close to the success of its predecessors.

Peugeot - up 

2020 market share: 3.51%, 2021 market share: 3.68%

Peugeot is selling almost exactly as many cars as Citroën and Renault combined, so it’s doing pretty well. Its strongest performer is the 2008 (third behind the Puma and Juke).

Polestar - up

2020 market share: 0.05%, 2021 market share: 0.24%

This youthful EV company is Volvo’s cooler, trendier sibling. Now that Volvo itself is quite cool, that’s a good place to be.

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Porsche - down

2020 market share: 0.88%, 2021 market share: 0.75%

Porsche’s slight fall was caused by fading sales of the Cayenne. On the plus side, the Taycan is selling more than the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class combined.

Renault - down

2020 market share: 2.62%, 2021 market share: 1.81%

Dealers must feel seasick from the ups and downs of Renault’s share. The Clio has fallen out of the supermini top 10, the Kadjar is declining and even the Zoe is down a bit.

Rolls-Royce - no change

2020 market share: 0.02%, 2021 market share: 0.02%

UK share is stable, although sales have been increasing in other markets. Globally, the company is doing very well.

Seat - down

2020 market share: 2.78%, 2021 market share: 2.74%

Seat’s share remains relatively stable, but then it’s operating at a far higher level than it did in previous years. Prior to 2017, it had never exceeded 2.2%.

Skoda - down 

2020 market share: 3.60%, 2021 market share: 3.37%

Skoda has fallen slightly but is now a very strong presence in the UK. Its blend of understated design plus appreciable quality and value makes it a sort of John Lewis on wheels. 

Smart - up

2020 market share: 0.08%, 2021 market share: 0.09%

Smart’s current pair of dated EVs are just placeholders until the new Geely and Mercedes models start arriving in 2022.

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Ssangyong - no change

2020 market share: 0.09%, 2021 market share: 0.09%

Ssangyong has been through more regenerations than Doctor Who, now on its fourth owner in 25 years after going into administration again. The latest is a Korean EV start-up.

Subaru - up

2020 market share: 0.06%, 2021 market share: 0.13%

The average Subaru dealer in the US sells more than 1000 new cars per year, and there are 625 of them. The entire UK dealer network will sell around 2000 this year.

Suzuki - up

2020 market share: 1.22%, 2021 market share: 1.31%

After a bad year in 2020, when it struggled with the new CO2 regulations, Suzuki has recovered a bit in 2021, thanks primarily to the updated Vitara SUV.

Tesla - up

2020 market share: 1.52%, 2021 market share: 1.63%

Part car maker, part charger supplier and part messianic cult, Tesla’s market value is worth as much as the next 10 car firms combined. The actual cars are good as well, but that’s incidental to the valuation.

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Toyota - up

2020 market share: 5.63%, 2021 market share: 6.16%

After a lost decade, when share hovered around 4%, Toyota is now the biggest Asian brand in the UK. It’s also fifth overall, which realistically is as high as it can go for the foreseeable future.

Vauxhall - down

2020 market share: 5.85%, 2021 market share: 5.55%

Vauxhall’s market share fall seems to have stabilised, as the General Motors-era cars are steadily replaced (PSA had let sales of GM-platform cars collapse). The new Astra could lead to a slight recovery.

Volkswagen - down

2020 market share: 9.09%, 2021 market share: 9.03%

VW has finally hunted down Ford. In the end, it was almost embarrassingly easy. To add insult to injury, the Polo could finish ahead of the Fiesta, for years Britain’s best-selling car.

Volvo - up

2020 market share: 2.85%, 2021 market share: 2.91%

After 25 years of drift to 2015, Volvo is now a viable alternative to Germany’s premium brands. In SUVs, the XC40, XC60 and XC90 are actually outselling many of their German rivals.

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It was a good year to be selling...

Cars with a plug: Registrations of plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars rose from 10.7% to more than 17%.

Crossovers: For the first time ever, crossovers took most of the small family car segment, meaning more Kugas and fewer Focuses.

Compact executives: Surprisingly, this class rose more than 10%, mostly thanks to the BMW 3 Series and Tesla Model 3. Predictably, though, that didn’t help the Jaguar XE.

It was a bad year to be selling...

Sports cars and coupés: Top-end models are still doing well, but affordable coupés have all but disappeared.

Executive saloons and estates: Share is at its lowest ever (less than 2%) as almost everyone shifts to crossovers.

Anything out of the mainstream: Just three segments (supermini, small family and premium SUV) took more than 85% of the market – a record figure.

David Francis

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Bimfan 2 January 2022

Surely McLaren have sold more cars than Alpine this year but are not in this list at all? 

Usual Autocar bias in operation I guess.

Buzz Cagney 1 January 2022
It really is time to stop calling Ford 'of Britain'
It really isn't. Not any longer.
They long since squandered the loyalty that Britain felt for it. Hence its fall from its once lofty position.
xxxx 1 January 2022

Awful performance from Ford with DS and Renault also putting in a poor show, much like their cars, in the UK