Nissan Qashqai: the latest million seller versus the first

Published: 09 August 2011

Rather like female Formula One drivers, the club of million-selling motors designed and built in Britain is neither fast nor pretty – but definitely exclusive. And with production of the Nissan Qashqai slipping into seven figures the fellowship has just initiated a new member.

Remarkably, (and conveniently for us) Nissan has managed this feat exactly half a century after this country’s first homegrown million seller, the Morris Minor, established the record.

Nissan Qashqai vs Morris Minor

About the only thing the cars themselves share is that on their respective launches they were exactly what the people of the time wanted. Of course, the 1961 Minor Million in our photo shoot feels horribly primitive compared to the Qashqai. Safety equipment of the day is limited to the constant reminder that should you shunt you will be impaled on the spear-like steering column.

The 948cc engine feels laughably gutless. And they appear to have forgotten to fit any kind of ventilation other than wind-down windows. But when it was launched in 1948, the Moggy’s offering of modern motoring for the masses was an affordable antidote to the woes of war.

2011 vs 1961

Today's Qashqai, meanwhile is a hatchback that looks like an SUV, just when everyone is downsizing from real 4x4s. And while the Alec Issigonis-designed Minor featured revolutionary technology for the time such as rack and pinion steering and independent front suspension with torsion bars, the Qashqai was an equally radical step for a mass market motor maker.

It was Nissan publicly admitting it would dare to walk away from the hugely underwhelming Almera and try something different in the Golf class.

The result has been an unmitigated success. With a Qashqai a minute spat off the Sunderland production line it’s taken Nissan less than five years to hit the million mark. It took the Minor more than 12 years. The Minor’s popularity abroad couldn’t match its UK success, probably not helped by maker BMC only fitting an exterior door lock to the passenger side of left-hand drive conversions.

The Nissan, however, has settled down as the highest volume car built in the UK. It’s our biggest automotive export with more than 80% per cent of Qashqais heading to 97 markets worldwide. Considering that cars make up a tenth of all UK exports, that’s a chunky contribution to the £25 billion on the balance sheet of UK plc.

Those British million selling cars in full

Mini 5,365,030
Austin 1100/1300 2,151,007
Morris Minor 1,619,857
Austin Metro 1,518,932
Morris Marina/Ital 1,333,690
Rover 200/400 1,080,070
Nissan Qashqai 1,000,001