The Rather Amazing and Slightly Strange UK Car Market

If you want to listen to this post in its original (and frankly, much more entertaining) form then go to Gareth Jones On Speed and download the latest podcast. This post is unashamedly pinched from that broadcast. I found it so fascinating that I had to adapt it for the written form here.

Gareth Jones On Speed is a podcast hosted by….. Gareth Jones and featuring a couple of his mates. One of them, Richard Porter, is a writer for the Top Gear television show and Evo Magazine. In the latest episode of the podcast he shared some rather amazing little tidbits about UK car sales in April 2013.

I’d like to share a few of his points and make a few of my own.

You tend to get used to your own vehicle market and think that most other western markets are similar to yours. Here in Australia, for example, the market is totally dominated by Toyota. Asian brands make up much of the Top 10, too. Here’s our Top 10 for April:

1 – Toyota – 16,902
2 – Holden – 7,994
3 – Mazda – 7,833
4 – Hyundai – 7,315
5 – Ford – 6,828
6 – Mitsubishi – 5,456
7 – Nissan – 5,104
8 – Volkswagen – 4,584
9 – Honda – 3,168
10 – Subaru – 2,553

Additionally, here’s the US Top 10 for April. As you can see, there are some variations, but it’s reasonably similar. Domestic and Asian brands dominate.

1 – Ford – 204,969
2 – Chevrolet – 172,460
3 – Toyota – 158,069
4 – Honda – 117,100
5 – Nissan – 80,003
6 – Hyundai – 63,315
7 – Dodge – 53,413
8 – Kia – 47,556
9 – Jeep – 39,426
10 – GMC – 34,799

I won’t give you the full UK Top 10 just yet. Let’s just take the Top 3 for now.

1 – Ford – 22,178
2 – Vauxhall – 17,645
3 – Volkswagen – 16,096

So who do you think came in at #4 on the UK sales chart in April 2013?





OK, maybe it’d be one of those cheaper European brands. I saw a hell of a lot of Peugeots when I was last in England, so let’s go with them. Peugeot?


The #4 best selling brand in the UK in April 2013 was none other than…..


Yes – Audi was the #4 selling brand in the UK last month. I’d normally expect a company like Audi to be top three in the premium segment or something like that, but they’re only one place out of the top three for the entire UK market.

What’s even more amazing (to me) is that companies like Mercedes Benz and BMW are also listed in the Top 10. Toyota DID make the top 10, but only just. They’re actually at #10 in the sales chart, with Mercedes Benz at #7 and BMW at #5.

Toyota being outsold by Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz???

I don’t know about you, but to me, that’s quite stunning. I’m sure it’s actually more normal than I realise in European markets, but downunder we get used to Toyota being a complete juggernaut that consumes everything in its path. German brands such as those listed are more for the well-heeled and whilst they’re not that far away from the Top 10 (Mercedes came in at #12 last month), they’re much more a minority player here. It’s nice to hear about some places where that’s not the case.

Some other brief notes from UK sales in April:

  • One of the notes from Richard Porter in the GJOS podcast that’s worth mentioning – at an Audi dealership he spoke to, something like 70% of their sales do NOT involve a test drive. The customer simply places the order and waits for the car.
  • MINI, Skoda and Citroen all sold more cars in the UK last month than Honda. Actually, even SEAT sold more cars in the UK last month than Honda.
  • SMART sold more than three times as many cars in April than Subaru. In fact, if Bentley had sold just one more vehicle in April, they would have drawn level with Subaru in the UK last month.
  • 4 of the top 20 selling brands in April belong to Volkswagen Group.
  • There were 2 Saabs sold in the UK last month. If one more Saab had been sold, Saab would have shared last place with Proton (3 sold)


Make sure you check out the Gareth Jones On Speed podcast. There’s a heck of lot more about British sales in April in the latest edition, and a lot of other stuff to have a laugh at as well.

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    1. Well, yes and no. Audi sold 11,000 cars in the UK and 3,000 of them were A3’s. Audi also sell the A1 there but it wasn’t in the top 10 vehicles sold (the A3 was #10). I’d guesstimate half or more of those 11,000 were A4s and bigger.

      1. Many of those A4s and A6s would probably have been Avants as well. The estate car, or station wagon (I hate that American phrase), is very popular in the UK. Car like handling still, but increased functionality over a saloon.

        1. ” The estate car, or station wagon (I hate that American phrase),…”

          FYI……………there IS a good reason for the term…and not quite as snobbish as something used by the owner of an “Estate”.

          ” Well, the very first station wagons were called ‘depot hacks’ – they worked primarily around train depots as hacks (taxicabs). The modified back ends that made them depot hacks were necessary to carry large amounts of luggage – everyone traveled by train then, remember, and you needed a car that could comfortably carry people and large amounts of luggage from the train station to home. They were also called ‘carryall’s’ and ‘suburbans’ (a name Plymouth used on their wagons until the late 1970’s).

          ‘Station wagon’ was just another derivative of ‘depot hack’; they were vehicles that were used as wagons (to carry passengers and cargo) from (railroad) stations.”

  1. It’s true, my Fiat is regarded as a somewhat exotic and ‘expensive’ car choice. Completely different to the Euro bargain peoples car status. Also odd when parts are similar, sometimes cheaper, to Asian alternatives

  2. 1 VOLVO V70II 1778 1744 5925 7162 1,94 17,27− 7,38 7,84
    2 VW PASSAT 1194 1332 4605 6153 10,36− 25,15− 5,74 6,74
    3 VOLVO S/V60 1418 975 4536 4325 45,43 4,87 5,65 4,74
    4 VOLVO V40N 721 3007 3,75
    5 VW GOLF 1070 811 2780 3356 31,93 17,16− 3,46 3,68
    6 VOLVO XC60 738 532 2291 1796 38,72 27,56 2,85 1,97
    7 KIA CEE’D 561 559 1847 1965 0,35 6,00− 2,30 2,15
    8 BMW 3−SERIE 632 379 1653 1521 66,75 8,67 2,06 1,67
    9 AUDI A4 467 327 1554 1499 42,81 3,66 1,94 1,64
    10 BMW 5−SERIE

    1. It’s interesting to see Kia outselling it’s parent Hyundai in Sweden. That doesn’t happen here in Australia. I guess it could be something to do with the fact that the Kia Cee’d is built in Europe. The Cee’d isn’t sold in Australia but we will get the Pro Cee’d GT later this year. The Pro Cee’d GT looks like an interesting 3 door hatch and better looking than it’s Hyundai Veloster sister:

      1. The Pro Cee’d looks pretty damn good actually. I had considered the Veloster instead of my Guilietta, but it was just a bit too far out in looks terms.

  3. Anecdotally, Audi seem to have replaced BMW in the UK. (It would be good to see figures from previous years to confirm whether that is true). At one time, the 3-series sold very well in the UK because it was an excellent car, with accessible pricing, great technology and fuel economy etc. There is also, like anywhere, badge snobbery and BMW were the brand to have. It seems many people at the latest trade-in have swopped the BMs for Audi, including my brother-in-law and sister. I have recorded my feelings about Audi on this comments page before and will not bore you again. I did enjoy my BMW E46 320d, which offered superb fuel economy and an exhilarating drive (RWD), in an affordable package.

    The Euro bashing that goes on here in Australia is quite odd to me. Perhaps the high purchase costs and service costs, relative to those in Europe, contribute to a different perception of value should one have issues with ones car. In the UK, where prices are less, these cars are appreciated as exceptionally good vehicles and as Robin Capper notes, the parts and running costs are often cheaper than the Asian cars.

    It is not just the brands that are different in the UK though. ‘People carriers’, such as the Ford Galaxy, VW Touran, (not Touareg), Ford C & S Max etc., remain popular as they offer space, functionality and economy, without the running costs of SUVs that most people find unnecessary because they rarely go off road. Many of these vehicles, as well as the Jaguar X-type estate, the XF sportback, the Toyota Avensis estate, Ford Focus estate etc., are examples of very good, practical, family cars that do not even get imported to Australia. Utes are a rarity in the UK, with most tradespeople using vans instead (presumably for climate reasons).

    It makes car purchasing difficult because I know that my ideal vehicle type exists, it just does not exist here.

  4. The development of the UK-market ist quiet normal für northern and central Europe. Here are the charts for the german market (April 2013). Opel (Vauxhall in the UK) and Ford are regarded as inferiour brands (imagewise) an the so called premium brands are in fact mass manufacturers.

    1. VW (63.670)
    2. Mercedes-Benz (27.262)
    3. Audi (26.263)
    4. BMW (20.882)
    5. Opel (20.302)
    6. Ford (19.428)
    7. Skoda (12.750)
    8. Renault (9556)
    9. Hyundai (8465)
    10. SEAT (7589)

  5. Firstly here in the UK we are very status driven, people want to be ‘seen’ driving s badge. Why do you think Saab sold so well? Secondly we have a huge fleet market that pays for the leases

  6. This has a lot to do with the large size of the company car market in the UK (and Germany).

    People aren’t buying these cars with their own money, and they don’t expect to keep them once the lease contract is over. The private market is down, which makes company cars even more predominant.

  7. Well, recall how well Saab used to do in the UK. Take Audi’s success overall, add in displaced Saab buyers, add another helping of people for who Merc is too posh and BMW too chav and what do you have?

  8. The company car market is an interesting point for the UK, but I wonder too if another factor has to do with the fact that many cars are imported into the UK (still true, right?), whereas many of those foreign brands (both German and Asian) now have plants in the U.S. so U.S. buyers are not quite so hung up any longer on buying “American”based on the marque. For example, a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry may have more parts in it from U.S. suppliers than some world-market Ford cars.

  9. As a former Saaber, now Audier, I do note a number of Audi sales to former Saab drivers. The Audi diesel engines run rings (four?) around the competition in economy, refinement and above all, performance. Take a look at the figures for the SQ5 …

    1. Agreed but don’t go for the ‘eco’ option because unless the Audi implementation of the 1.6tdi is any different from that employed by the rest of the vw group i wouldn’t touch it with a barge poll. I had one of these and got rid after 1 year at a great loss financially. Injector problems, poor fuel economy even after injectors changed (never got close to the figures for my previous 1.9tdi (PD) in basically the same car, no torque or oomph, for ever stirring gearbox to make normal progress, a poor engine that ruined an otherwise great car.
      in contrast the 2.0 litre 140/170bhp engines are nice, hind sight is a great thing.
      the great thing is this led me to getting a Saab again after so many years and it is a delight, so every cloud ….

  10. One things become fairly obvious. If NEVS wants to sell by the numbers they first and foremost got to continue with the traditional SAAB segment (between VW and A) including A REAL Aero, or…
    Make Saab a “reasonably priced car” with compromises all over the place and very few want to own one for more than a year, make Saab a Swedish Jaguar or Tesla and they won’t even leave the showrooms.

    Why would someone currently driving a AMG Merc or M-series suddenly be interested in NEVS, whatever the price? Luxury brands like Porsche and Aston Martin haven’t stopped making cars as far as I know.

  11. A lot of those Audis, Beemers and Benzes would be manuals without leather or sunroofs etc….something almost incomprehensible here in Australia where such simple specs are only by special order. Of course, the prices reflect this and then some. We are up there with the Nordics for insane car prices whereas the UK is eminently reasonable.

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