Currently reading: Winners and losers in the 2020 UK car market
Our end-of-year report reveals which car makers did well in the UK and which could improve
Autocar
News
7 mins read
5 January 2021

The final total of new car registrations in the UK in 2020 is forecast by the SMMT to be around 1.56 million. That would represent a huge, Covid-caused 32.5% drop on 2019 and the lowest annual figure since 1982. The 2021 total is expected to be two million. The peak was 2.69 million, as recently as 2016.

Alfa Romeo - down

2019 market share: 0.15%

2020 market share: 0.12%

Alfa has recorded its smallest UK market share since the 1960s. The Stelvio SUV is a particular disaster, as the worst performer in its class, outsold 10 to one by Jaguar’s F-Pace.

Alpine

2019: 0.01%

2020: 0.01%

Notwithstanding that the A110 is an absolute joy to drive, Alpine has a battle on its hands to make Porsche buyers see past the Renault link. Will new boss Luca de Meo’s plan to turn it into “a mini Ferrari” succeed?

Aston Martin - down

2019: 0.07%

2020: 0.05%

The launch of the DBX SUV should have been the headline event; instead, it was Aston’s near-bankruptcy. Mercedes’ increased shareholding (up to 20%) is a ray of hope, but a recovery is vital next year.

Audi - up

2019: 6.01%

2020: 6.70%

After big sales falls in 2018 and 2019 caused by problems with homologating all of its models to the new WLTP emissions standards, Audi is now back in hot pursuit of traditional rivals BMW and Mercedes.

Bentley - up

2019: 0.07%

2020: 0.08%

Bentley’s market share may have risen fractionally over the past three years but, with a new and much expanded model range, this can’t be considered a particularly great result.

BMW - down

2019: 7.34%

2020: 7.02%

The new 3 Series is doing well as the best-selling executive car, but anything with a 2, 4, or 5 in its name is down by more than the overall market. That’s possibly due to facelifts and replacements, however.

Citroen - down

2019: 2.20%

2020: 1.76%

Citroën has lost half its market share in the past decade. The French brand is struggling to find a point of differentiation, and it remains to be seen whether cars such as the new C4 and electric ë-C4 can help.

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Dacia - down

2019: 1.34%

2020: 1.24%

The appeal of the Duster SUV has faded slightly this year, but a 1.2% share is still respectable for what’s currently a three-model range, plus it’s about to launch a much-improved new Sandero.

DS - down

2019: 0.18%

2020: 0.14%

Back when its 3 was a funky and affordable supermini, DS did pretty well. Now it’s looking more like the PSA Group’s equivalent of Infiniti in the UK. It will be hoping its all-new 4 hatchback can help next year.

Ferrari - up

2019: 0.05%

2020: 0.06%

Ferrari hasn’t increased its sales; it has just fulfilled orders at the same rate in a smaller market. That’s impressive, though, considering the pandemic caused Maranello to close for two months.

Fiat - down

2019: 1.44%

2020: 1.37%

Given that almost every Fiat now is branded 500 and that Stellantis (FCA and PSA post-merger) will have more brands than it will know what to do with, will the Fiat badge survive?

Ford - down

2019: 10.22%

2020: 9.43%

The new Puma crossover is doing very well, but the Fiesta – traditionally the best-selling car in the UK – is under siege from newer competitors and large Fords are now effectively a thing of the past.

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Honda - down

2019: 1.90%

2020: 1.73%

Honda no longer has any big-sellers here, with only the Jazz managing to scrape into the top 10 in its segment. The new electric E is the epitome of urban cool, but will it change the image of its siblings?

Hyundai - down

2019: 3.60%

2020: 2.95%

Hyundai is facing its first big problems here, with sales of most cars down by more than half. Its dealers are reported to be among the unhappiest in the UK – never a good sign.

Jaguar - down

2019: 1.56%

2020: 1.48%

The XE has now been dropped in the US and frankly might as well be in the UK, too, as it was outsold 12 to one by the BMW 3 Series. And where’s the follow-up to the brilliant I-Pace EV?

Jeep

2019: 0.27%

2020: 0.27%

The boss of Jeep recently boasted about how successful the management have been in turning it into a global brand. That memo has clearly yet to arrive in the UK.

Kia - up

2019: 4.21%

2020: 4.47%

Kia is now the UK’s eighth-largest brand, ahead of Nissan. Its standout seller is the Niro, which is battling the Vauxhall Grandland X for fourth place in the family crossover segment.

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Land Rover - up

2019: 3.31%

2020: 3.60%

The rise in market share has come from the new Defender. Time will tell whether the Defender 110 will eventually replace the unloved, platform-sharing Discovery.

Lexus - up

2019: 0.68%

2020: 0.87%

Lexus has had a good year in market share terms, thanks to the new UX crossover, an electric version of which is soon to arrive. It’s making progress but is still the smallest of the six mainstream premium brands.

Lotus

2019: 0.01%

2020: 0.01%

Like an F1 team that has written off its chances for the season, Lotus is focusing its hopes and resources on next year’s car.

Maserati

2019: 0.04%

2020: 0.04%

There’s a new sports car and a smaller SUV coming; will they finally bring Maserati success?

Mazda - down

2019: 1.74%

2020: 1.43%

The CX-30 is doing well, but most other cars are suffering. Mazda was slow to jump on the EV bandwagon, only now dipping its toe in the water with the short-range MX-30.

Mercedes-Benz - down

2019: 7.43%

2020: 6.90%

Mercedes’ share has slipped this year, mostly because the big-selling C-Class is in its final year before replacement.

MG - up

2019: 0.57%

2020: 1.13%

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MG is now a significant brand in the UK – quite a turnaround from its share of 0.12% five years ago. Two-thirds of its sales come from the ZS.

Mini - down

2019: 2.81%

2020: 2.80%

Mini’s share has been broadly stable for many years now. The new Mini Electric has got off to a good start, despite pandemic-disrupted production.

Mitsubishi - down

2019: 0.70%

2020: 0.57%

After the government ended its PHEV grant and the Ghosn crisis, we asked if Mitsubishi was due a stroke of luck. Instead it’s packing its bags.

Nissan - up

2019: 4.00%

2020: 4.33%

The good news for Nissan is its share grew. The bad news is the new Juke should have made more of an impact; it’s being outsold by the Ford Puma and Vauxhall Crossland X.

Peugeot - down

2019: 3.50%

2020: 3.46%

Peugeot remains ahead of its compatriots, but the good news pretty much stops there. Not one of its cars is a big seller in its segment; even the 208 supermini ranks only seventh.

Porsche - up

2019: 0.66%

2020: 0.81%

The unlikeliest statistic of the year is that Porsche makes the UK’s best-selling luxury saloon, and it’s electric: the Taycan is beating the Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7 Series and Audi A8.

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Renault - up

2019: 2.56%

2020: 2.73%

Renault has grown through the Zoe, sales of which have more than doubled. Its hope must be to surf the electric wave.

Rolls-Royce

2019: 0.02%

2020: 0.02%

Goodwood’s overall market share is stable, which suggests the introduction of its first-ever SUV, the Cullinan, has cannibalised some Phantom sales. Perhaps the new Ghost will make a difference in 2021.

Seat - down

2019: 2.98%

2020: 2.75%

After stellar growth rates generated by its three recent crossover models, Seat has paused for breath this year. The newly launched Leon hatchback and estate should make an impact in 2021.

Skoda - up

2019: 3.25%

2020: 3.59%

Its SUVs are performing very well and it’s even managing to shift saloons: the Superb outsells the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia combined. With a new Octavia, the Enyaq electric SUV and a new Fabia in view, things can only get better.

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Smart - down

2019: 0.17%

2020: 0.09%

Smart is technically still present in the UK. Its skeletal website takes you to a page showing a £5000 discount; if buyers hold off, will it start offering buy one, get one free?

Ssangyong - down

2019: 0.09%

2020: 0.08%

Ssangyong’s sales remain minimal and the company is in deep trouble. It’s up for sale yet again, meaning it’s now looking for its fourth buyer since only 1997 after Daewoo, SAIC and Mahindra.

Subaru - down

2019: 0.13%

2020: 0.05%

Subaru will probably sell fewer than 1000 cars here this year and sunk to a monthly low of 34 in August. Is the UK market really worth the effort for a company that makes a million cars annually?

Suzuki - down

2019: 1.52%

2020: 1.24%

Suzuki’s market share has dropped sharply, with a 57% fall in Vitara registrations. Is that due to the fleet-average CO2 concerns that so sadly killed off the Jimny this year?

Tesla - up 

2019: 0.57%

2020: 1.26%

As much a charging network as a car maker, Tesla performed superbly in 2020. The vast majority of its sales were of the Model 3, which is now second to only BMW’s 3 Series in its class.

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Toyota - up

2019: 4.55%

2020: 5.74%

After years in the doldrums, Toyota is finally motoring again, thanks to a new range of impressive and desirable cars. The Corolla, C-HR and RAV4 are all growing their respective market shares.

Vauxhall - down

2019: 6.92%

2020: 5.88%

PSA seems to have decided to stop selling models built on GM platforms, because the Astra is down 70% and the Insignia is down 85%. But the new Corsa is doing well and the new Mokka should boost Vauxhall in 2021.

Volkswagen - up 

2019: 8.69%

2020: 8.86%

Volkswagen halved the gap to Ford this year, and its market share is now less than 1% lower. With full supply of the new Golf and the electric ID 3 next year, could it capture the top spot?

Volvo - up

2019: 2.43%

2020: 2.79%

Volvo is definitely the premium brand on the march right now. Its XC40 is now the UK’s favourite compact premium crossover, even outselling the Range Rover Evoque – and an electric version is imminent.

It was a good year to be selling

Battery-electric vehicles: Last year, we said that 2020 could be the year that BEVs start to go mainstream and, with a market share of 6%, they’re not at all far off it.

Luxury SUVs: Apparently demonstrating that economic turmoil rarely affects the wealthy, sales of Range Rovers and suchlike fell by only 8.4%.

Models, rather than brands: The brands that did the best were those with attractive new cars, like MG and Toyota, which aren’t top of anyone’s list of desirable badges.

It was a bad year to be selling

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Anything French or Italian: Traditional buyers have largely moved to Asian or Volkswagen Group brands and are showing little sign of returning any time soon.

Non-premium large cars: Even SUVs like the Hyundai Santa Fe lost market share, while big saloons such as the Vauxhall Insignia have pretty much vaporised.

MPVs: Hardly anyone sold an MPV last year. It seems likely that the only new people-carriers launched in future will be converted vans.

David Francis

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sabre 6 January 2021

It was a bad year for selling French and Italian cars in the UK, American cars are negligible. The PSA-FCA French-Italian-American merger will not change the situation.

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