22 February 2014

UK Car Sales Local vs Import: 1981-2013

128,000 Ford Sierras were made in the UK in 1983 

Comparing the locally made and imported share of the UK market (1960-80 can be accessed by clicking here), the 1980's were pretty stable. Therefore I didn't add those years to the list below. So how did these decades pan out?

1980's: Despite the market growing well in this period, local car makers grew even faster. This was a better time for UK car production as local percentage went from 41% in 1981 to 44% in 1990. The Metro and 200 models from BL were doing well, the Ford's Fiesta and Escort were rolling out of Dagenham in goodly numbers, Vauxhall were doing fine with the Astra and Cavalier models while Nissan had arrived and was ramping up Bluebird production. It looked like a corner had been turned.

The Rover Metro/100 was a winner for UK customers. She looks happy

1990's: Remember, this is a soap opera and there is always plenty of twists in such shows. The good was that Toyota (Carina & Corolla) and Honda (Accord & Civic) arrived, while Nissan had added the Micra. Vauxhall was doing well with the Vectra and Astra. However, most of that production was for export. The Rover Group (formerly BL) was more a local car maker than exporter, and that was in decline. BMW had bought it mid decade and frankly made a mess of it (see the proof by clicking here). So the 90's ended up with just 26% locally made.

Always popular in Britain

2000's: Domestically made cars in the UK took a tumble this decade. The Phoenix Consortium took some of the Rover Group and created MG Rover. It soon withered and went belly up. Ford and Peugeot decided to end car making in the UK. Ford continued with design work and engine building which compensated, but PSA cynically moved to Slovakia. BMW did get things very right with the MINI, Land Rover had a blossoming range of vehicles and the Japanese car makers showed loyalty by sticking with the UK (PSA take note). Nevertheless, much of this was for export and the UK production share in its home market nearly touched a mere 10%.

2010's: With the history lesson nearly over, the last three years of the chart showed small but encouraging signs. The Nissan Qashqai has helped with UK citizens almost taking it as their own (local design and manufacture not enough for some), as too the Juke model (Note & Leaf also made in Sunderland).

The Nissan Qashqai. As British as fish 'n chips and a pint 

Summary: The British car maker's share of their local market has been truly a soap opera. With Vauxhall only making one model now, Ford (also seen as a UK Brand) not actually making cars there, and MG Rover well gone, the import will continue to dominate. It's hard for most in the UK to see Nissan, Toyota and Honda as local producers to support. MINI, Land Rover and Jaguar are seen that way of course, with only some moaning about these being foreign owned. I say be glad for what you have. The industry could have died off completely.

Yr Total Local % local Import % impt

91 1,592,326 631,824 39.7% 960,502 60.3%

92 1,593,601 707,579 44.4% 886,022 55.6%

93 1,779,296 814,173 45.8% 965,123 54.2%

94 1,911,933 854,124 44.7% 1,057,809 55.3%

95 1,945,366 763,246 39.2% 1,182,120 60.8%

96 2,025,450 760,731 37.6% 1,264,719 62.4%

97 2,170,725 738,494 34.0% 1,432,231 66.0%

98 2,247,403 729,217 32.4% 1,518,186 67.6%

99 2,197,615 649,279 29.5% 1,548,336 70.5%

00 2,221,647 578,462 26.0% 1,643,185 74.0%

01 2,458,769 598,151 24.3% 1,860,618 75.7%

02 2,563,631 582,266 22.7% 1,981,365 77.3%

03 2,579,050 513,798 19.9% 2,065,252 80.1%

04 2,567,269 467,160 18.2% 2,100,109 81.8%

05 2,439,717 411,245 16.9% 2,028,472 83.1%

06 2,344,864 335,992 14.3% 2,008,872 85.7%

07 2,404,007 349,108 14.5% 2,054,899 85.5%

08 2,131,795 318,033 14.9% 1,813,762 85.1%

09 1,994,999 237,226 11.9% 1,757,773 88.1%

10 2,030,846 309,024 15.2% 1,721,822 84.8%

11 1,941,253 219,134 11.3% 1,722,119 88.7%

12 2,044,609 252,875 12.4% 1,791,734 87.6%

13 2,264,737 308,367 13.6% 1,956,370 86.4%

Data source: The SMMT I assume is the original source.


  1. Sorry RayCee I meant to comment on this earlier.

    The Rover 200 was an excellent car - more stylish and better to drive than a Golf, and almost as good quality. Unfortunately it made Rover think they could be some kind of BMW rival and they let it go to their head - and the reliance on Honda became too pronounced to let their British engineered claims stand up. Plus the 400 (replacement for the 200) was ugly as hell.

    I hope that GM get some reward from the British public for sticking with UK production while Ford scarpered to Europe. But while I applaud Vauxhall's ambition, the affection for Ford runs very deep in the UK. Cars like the Cortina, Escort and Fiesta are legends and pretty much everybody ends up driving a Ford at some point.

    Chris G

  2. Hi Chris.

    The Honda tie up started well but it was never a long term fix. Honda is not a company used to working with others and that lack of flexibility would limit Rover to a maker of Honda products.

    GM know that they need to produce something in the UK, but design work is all done in Germany. Ford do actually do a lot of development in the UK and produce millions of engines each year. They should have kept car making too, to appreciate the loyalty to the brand if nothing else.