2020 (May) Britain: Best-Selling Car Brands and Models in the UK

In May 2020, the British new car market contracted by 89%. Ford was still the top-selling car brand followed by Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and BMW. The Tesla Model 3 was the best-selling car model.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class.-- tenth best-selling car model in the Britain in May 2020
Mercedes-Benz E-Class.– tenth most-popular car model in the UK in May 2020

In May 2020, new passenger vehicle registrations in Britain contracted by 89% to only 20,247 cars delivered to new customers — the lowest May car sales since May 1952. Ford remained the top-selling car brand in Britain in May 2020 although Britain’s seemingly perpetual leading car brand outsold Mercedes-Benz by only 100 cars. Battery-electric vehicle sales increased in volume terms to give electric cars a market share of 12% in Britain in May 2020. For the second consecutive month, the Tesla Model 3 was the top-selling car in the UK followed by the Vauxhall Corsa and Ford Fiesta.

British New Car Market in May 2020

may 2020 car registrations in Britain - 2004 to 2020

In May 2020, UK new car registrations fell -89.0%, according to figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Some 20,247 cars were registered in the month, as ‘click and collect’ services, allowed from mid-month, saw some movement in the market.

Although this resulted in nearly five times more sales than in April 2020, car sales in Britain in May 2020 were 163,477 fewer registrations than in the same month last year. The performance still marked the lowest May since 1952, when only 14,466 cars were sold. British car production in April 2020 was similarly at its lowest levels since the Second World War.

Private buyers accounted for the lion’s share of registrations at 63.7% of the market, equivalent to 12,900 units, while 6,638 cars went to fleets.

New Car Sales by Fuel Type in Britain in May 2020

New Car Sales by Fuel Type in Britain in May 2020

There were severe declines across all segments and fuel types, apart from battery electric vehicles, with 429 more units registered year on year in this exceptional month as pre-orders of the latest premium models were delivered to customers. Although the SMMT did not specify Tesla sales separately, 35% of all the electric cars registered in Britain in May 2020 were Model 3 cars.

The overall British new car market is now down -51.4% in the first five months of 2020, at just over half a million registrations compared with more than one million at this point last year. The news comes in the week that car showrooms in England were given the green light to re-open following more than two months of lost trading. Early indications are of brisk sales during the first few days of June but it is unlikely that these sales will make up for those lost since mid-March. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (until next week), however, car showrooms remain closed.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “After a second month of shutdown and the inevitable yet devastating impact on the market, this week’s re-opening of dealerships is a pivotal moment for the entire industry and the thousands of people whose jobs depend on it. Customers keen to trade up into the latest, cutting-edge new cars are now able to return to showrooms and early reports suggest there is good business given the circumstances, although it is far too early to tell how demand will pan out over the coming weeks and months.

Best-Selling Car Brands in Britain in May 2020

According to the new passenger vehicle registration data released by the SMMT, the following were the ten best-selling car marques in the UK in May 2020 and year to date 2020:

MARQUEMay 2020May 2019% Change1-5/20201-5/2019% Change
10Land Rover7796,069-87.1620,93335,597-41.19

*Note: The SMMT did not list Tesla separately but at least 852 Model 3s were sold in Britain in May 2020.

Given the low numbers and the overall distortion of the market by the lockdown measures, the changes in relative rank positions are purely of academic interests. Ford narrowly remained the market leader selling just over a hundred more cars than Mercedes Benz that moved into second place. Both Audi and BMW also moved ahead of Volkswagen in May 2020.

Top-Selling Car Models in Britain in May 2020

According to the SMMT, the following were the ten best-selling car models in Britain in May 2020 and year-to-date 2020:

Top-Selling Car Models in Britain in May 2020

In May 2020, for the second consecutive month, the Tesla Model 3 was the top-selling car model in Britain. The Vauxhall Corsa moved into second place while the Ford Fiesta was the third best-selling car model in Britain in May 2020 but still the market leader for the first five months.

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class was the fourth most-popular car model in Britain in May 2020. All the other cars, with the exception of the Ford Kuga, are rarely seen on the top-ten list. Three Mercedes-Benz models were in the top ten including the expensive E-Class.

The Volkswagen Golf is still the second most popular car model in Britain thus far in 2020 but sold only around 250 cars in May. Other regular top-ten models including the Nissan Qashqai, Mini, and VW Polo similarly had weak sales in May.