2017 (Half Year) Britain: Best-Selling Car Brands and Models

Ford, Vauxhall and Volkswagen remained the best-selling car brand in the UK during the first half of 2017. The Fiesta was again the top-selling model.

Mercedes-Benz AMG C43 Coupe Geneva 2017

New passenger vehicle registrations in the United Kingdom (UK) contracted by 1.3% during the first six months of 2017 to 1,401,811 cars. Ford, Vauxhall and Volkswagen were again the top three best-selling car brands in Britain but all three sold fewer cars than a year ago and underperformed the broader market. The Ford Fiesta remained the favorite car model of the British but the Focus returned to second place and the Volkswagen Golf took third place for the first time ever. The sale of new diesel cars in Britain fell by 10% during the first semester of 2017.

The British New Car Market in 2017 (First Half)

During the first half of 2017, new passenger vehicle registrations in the UK were down 1.3% to 1,401,811 cars – around 19,000 cars less than a year ago.

Tax regime changes and the holiday calendar frontloaded sales to the first quarter of 2017 with sales down all three months of the second quarter of 2017. The British new car market expanded during the past five years and a weaker market was expected for 2017. The first six months of 2017 were still the second strongest first semester on record for the British car market.

The popularity of diesel cars in Britain continued to decline. During the first six months of 2017, 613,381 diesel cars were sold in the UK – a decline of 9.9% with market share slipping to 43.8% from 47.9% a year ago. Petrol car sales increased by 5.2% to 729,773 cars and a market share increase to 52.1% from 48.9% a year ago.

Best-Selling Car Brands in the UK in 2017 (Half Year)

The top-selling car marques in the United Kingdom during the first six months of 2017 according to the SMMT were:

Marque2017 (HY)2016 (HY)% Change
12Land Rover45,67542,5597.32
31Alfa Romeo2,7012,705-0.15
37Aston Martin982467110.28
Other Imports2,8851,90851.21
Other British361423-14.66
Source: SMMT

Top-Selling Car Marques in Britain in 2017 (First Semester)

Ford, Vauxhall and Volkswagen remained the three top-selling car brands in Britain during the first half of 2017. However, all three marques sold fewer cars than a year ago and underperformed the broader market.

In the case of Vauxhall, the decline was 15%, or 20,000 fewer cars than a year ago. Vauxhall’s decline alone accounted for more than the total contraction of the British new car market during the first semester of 2017. Vauxhall lost 1.3% market share.

All other top-ten brands sold more cars in Britain during the first half of 2017 compared to the first semester of 2016. Mercedes-Benz made the most gains with sales up 11% or nearly 10,000 cars – no other brand added more units. Mercedes-Benz leapfrogged both BMW and Audi in the sales rank to become the clear leader of the German premium brands in the UK.

Nissan had a strong performance in Britain during the first half of 2017 but its rank position remained unchanged. A strong improvement by Toyota saw the second most-popular Japanese car brand moved up one rank position but in volume terms quite a distance behind Nissan.

Kia also had strong sales in Britain and leapfrogged from 11th a year ago to 9th this year ahead of fellow South Korean brand Hyundai that also increased sales thus far in 2017. Peugeot slipped out of the top 10 list from 8th to 11th.

A few further salient features from the best-selling car sales statistics for Britain during the first half of 2017:

  • The most-improved brands were Chevrolet, Aston Martin, Infinity and Maserati.
  • The most-improved larger marques were Jaguar, Seat, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz.
  • The worst performing brands were Jeep, DS, Subaru and Citroën.
  • All French car brands had weaker sales: Peugeot dropped out of the top-ten list, Renault slipped two rank positions while Citroen sales were down by a fifth and DS sales nearly halved.
  • In contrast, all German brands with the noticeable exception of VW, increased sales.

Ten Best-Selling Car Models in Britain in 2017 (First Half)

The ten most-popular car models in Britain during the period January to June 2017 according to car sales statistics released by the SMMT were:

Model2017 (HY)2016 (HY)2015 (HY)
1Ford Fiesta59,38068,83371,990
2Ford Focus40,04538,71545,078
3Volkswagen Golf36,70337,57738,261
4Nissan Qashqai33,57433,65634,501
5Vauxhall Corsa33,56042,35650,125
6Vauxhall Astra32,40828,40629,996
7Mercedes-Benz C Class27,38622,06924,676
8Volkswagen Polo27,20528,00028,980
10Mercedes-Benz A Class22,944NANA
Source: SMMT

Top-Ten Car Models in Britain in 2017 (First Semester)

The Ford Fiesta was again the top-selling car model Britain during the first six months of 2017. Fiesta sales were sharply down from previous years but this is largely due to limited availability as a complete model change is taking place mid-year. The Fiesta is likely to remain Britain’s favorite car for the foreseeable future.

The Ford Focus improved from third to second most-popular car in Britain during the first half of 2017. The Focus was the only top-five model with stronger sales than a year ago.

The Volkswagen Golf also improved one position to take third place for the first time during the first semester of a year. In June 2017, the VW Golf was the best-selling car model in Britain.

Nissan Qashqai sales were flat but sufficient to improve to fourth place for the first time and to remain Britain’s favorite SUV.

The Vauxhall Corsa was the big looser among the top ten most-popular car models in Britain during the first half of 2017. More serious than slipping from second to fifth, Corsa sales were down around 9,000 cars for the second consecutive year. The direct competition has new models out this year while a new Corsa based on Peugeot 208 technology is only expected at the beginning of 2019.

A model change early in the year helped the Vauxhall Astra to increase sales but the Astra remained unchanged at 6.

The Mercedes-Benz C Class was the biggest climber. By far the most-expensive car on the top-ten list, the C-Class improved from 10th to 7th with unit sales up by more than 5,000 cars.

The VW Polo and Mini each slipped one position down the ranking. Mini sales were stronger while Polo sales were weaker. The VW Polo may have a difficult second half of 2017, as a completely new model will be launched soon.

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class entered the top-ten list for the first time at 10th. As a result, the Vauxhall Mokka slipped out of the list from 9th a year ago.

About the author:

Henk Bekker

Henk Bekker is a freelance writer with over 20 years of experience in online writing. His best-selling cars website has been reporting car sales statistics since 2008 with classic car auction prices focusing on the most expensive automobiles sold at public auctions in the past decade. He also owns the travel websites European-Traveler.com and Lake Geneva Switzerland. Henk holds an MBA from Edinburgh Business School and an MSc in Finance from the University of London.