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UK 2015 car sales analysis: winners and losers

Published: 07 January 2016

► UK car sales hit new record
► More than 2.6m new cars sold
► Full analysis: who's up, who's down 

Brits bought more cars than ever before in 2015, as a new sales record was set. More than 2.6 million new cars were sold, up 6% on 2014. It's only the fourth time ever that the UK market has surpassed 2.5m.

The new figures, published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), confirm that showrooms are awash with buyers as the economy grows, punters have more money in their pockets and manufacturers offer tempting incentives, discounts and deals.

'Consumer confidence is very high - the highest since the recession thanks to wage growth, low interest rates and reduced fuel prices,' said SMMT chief Mike Hawes.

Forty-three of the past 45 months have seen consecutive growth; only October and November 2015 dipped, but the year ended with a strong December, enjoying 8% growth. But don't go popping too many champagne corks; although no official figures are available yet, there is also evidence that pre-registration is rife among dealers...

Britain's best-selling cars revealed

The Ford Fiesta was once again crowned Britain's most popular car, selling more than 100,000 units. The supermini is ageing well; it's topped the sales charts every year this decade. It was followed - not that closely - by the Corsa, Focus, Golf and Qashqai.

Brits' favourite: the Ford Fiesta

The top 10 sellers in full:

1) Ford Fiesta 133,434
2) Vauxhall Corsa 92,077
3) Ford Focus 83,816
4) Volkswagen Golf 73,409
5) Nissan Qashqai 60,814
6) Volkswagen Polo 54,900
7) Vauxhall Astra 52,703
8) Audi A3 47,653
9) Mini 47,076
10) Vauxhall Mokka 45,399

Did #Dieselgate affect UK car sales?

The VW emissions scandal doesn't appear to have affected the popularity of diesel too much in Britain. The fuel continues to prove popular and 48.3% of all new cars registered were diesel, compared with 48.8% petrol.

'While there has been a lot of comment and concern over diesels and air quality, buyers still value good fuel economy and in most instances diesels offer this - relatively few people drive exclusively in urban areas,' said Hawes. 'Diesel also has an important role to play in achieving the UK's climate change targets.

'Given what happened in October and November, VW were looking to hit back and they had a good December. There's no evidence to suggest a significant impact [from Dieselgate] on VW further down the line.' It's proven in the figures: VW sales grew 4% and both Golf and Polo were in the top 10, although only because of gains earlier in the year. Since the scandal, they've slumped...

Other trends in the UK marketplace

The figures published by the SMMT reveal further interesting nuggets about buyer behaviour:

  • Shift towards premium Average transaction prices up from £21,000 in 2014 to £22k in 2015
  • Hybrids become more popular Hybrids/EVs growing, but still account for just 3% of sales: 78,000 in 2015
  • 4x4 love-in continues Crossovers remain the segment showing biggest growth
  • Most purchases are financed It's all borrowed: 80% of purchases are on finance - most on PCP deals
  • Farewell, niche brands No Peroduas or MIAs were sold; only 137 Chryslers and 12 leftover Chevrolets... 
  • Fleets still strong 1.3m cars - precisely half the market - were bought by businesses

Who's up, who's down: UK car manufacturers sales in 2015 in full

Reasons for cheer could be heard at BMW (regaining their #1 premium status ahead of Audi, Mercedes and Jaguar); SsangYong doubling their UK sales; Infiniti growing even before the Q30 hatch arrives; Jag up by nearly a third, the new XE and XF paving the way for the 2016 F-Pace; the smaller Jeeps powered the US brand to a 176% leap; Mitsubishi enjoyed a huge 40% increase, driven by its Outlander PHEV; and Porsche now sells five-figures in the UK, nearly as many as Lexus.

Anyone whose sales shrunk in a booming market has had a bad year: Alfa (down 8%) is waiting for the new Giulia; Fiat dipped 4%, Seat was down a worrying 11% and Skoda - another emissions crisis casualty - suffered a more modest 1% slip. A surprise fall, too, for Suzuki, down 8%.

MARQUE 2015 sales % Market share 2014 sales % Market share Up or down?
Abarth 2743 0.10 1642 0.07 +67.1%
Alfa Romeo 5069 0.19 5523 0.22 -8.2%
Aston Martin 949 0.04 864 0.03 +9.8%
Audi 166,709 6.33 158,987 6.42 +4.9
Bentley 1379 0.05 1472 0.06 -6.3%
BMW 167,391 6.36 148,878 6.01 +12.4%
Chevrolet 12 0.00 2774 0.11 -99.6%
Chrysler 137 0.01 1982 0.08 -93.1%
Citroen* 80,012 3.04 83,397 3.37 -4.1%
Dacia 26,228 1.00 23,862 0.96 +9.9%
DS* 8614 0.33 0 0.00 0.00
Fiat 64,257 2.44 67,162 2.71 -4.3%
Ford 335,267 12.73 326,643 13.19 +2.6%
Honda 53,417 2.03 53,544 2.16 -0.2%
Hyundai 88,117 3.35 81,986 3.31 +7.5
Infiniti 1195 0.05 746 0.03 +60.2
Jaguar 23,954 0.91 18,401 0.74 +30.2%
Jeep 10,794 0.41 3909 0.16 +176.1%
Kia 78,489 2.98 77,525 3.13 +1.2%
Land Rover 66,574 2.53 56,200 2.27 +18.5%
Lexus 13,269 0.50 11,572 0.47 +14.7%
Lotus 375 0.01 235 0.01 +59.6%
Maserati 1434 0.05 1194 0.05 +20.1%
Mazda 45,504 1.73 37,784 1.53 +20.4%
Mercedes-Benz 145,254 5.52 124,419 5.02 +16.8%
MG 3152 0.12 2326 0.09 +35.5%
Mia 0 0.00 5 0.00 -100.0%
Mini 63,581 2.41 53,661 2.17 +18.5%
Mitsubishi 22,693 0.86 15,805 0.64 +43.6%
Nissan 153,937 5.85 138,338 5.59 +11.3%
Perodua 0 0.00 29 0.00 -100.0%
Peugeot 104,249 3.96 103,566 4.18 +0.7%
Porsche 12,167 0.46 9160 0.37 +32.8%
Proton 0 0.00 11 0.00 -100%
Renault 75,618 2.87 66,334 2.68 +14.0%
Saab 0 0.00 3 0.00 -100.0%
Seat 47,654 1.81 53,512 2.16 -11.0%
Skoda 74,692 2.84 75,488 3.05 -1.1%
Smart 8455 0.32 4342 0.18 +94.7%
SsangYong 3344 0.13 1542 0.06 +116.9%
Subaru 3455 0.13 2793 0.11 +23.7%
Suzuki 34,437 1.31 37,395 1.51 -7.9%
Toyota 98,709 3.75 94,012 3.80 +5.0%
Vauxhall 269,766 10.24 269,177 10.87 +0.2%
Volkswagen 223,784 8.50 214,828 8.67 +4.2%
Volvo 43,432 1.65 41,066 1.66 +5.8%
Other British 701 0.03 774 0.03 -9.4%
Other imports 2534 0.10 1567 0.06 +61.7%
Total 2,633,503   2,476,435   +6.3%

* DS and Citroen These figures were split in May, with the creation of the separate DS sub-brand

A nation of crossover lovers: the Nissan Qashqai continues to sell well in Britain

By Ben Miller

The editor of CAR magazine, story-teller, average wheel count of three

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