2020 (Q1) Britain: Best-Selling Car Brands and Models

Volkswagen was the best-selling car brand in Britain during the first quarter of 2020. The Ford Fiesta remained the top-selling car model.

Volkswagen was the best-selling car brand in Britain during 2020 Q1

January – March 2020: new passenger vehicle registrations in the UK were down nearly a third in the wake of the Coronavirus crisis. Volkswagen outsold Ford for the first time to become the best-selling car brand in Britain for the first quarter of 2020. BMW moved ahead of Mercedes-Benz to become the third-best-selling car marque in the UK. The Ford Fiesta remained the favorite car of the British while the VW Golf and Ford Focus moved ahead of the Vauxhall Corsa.

British New Car Market in 2020 (Q1)

New passenger vehicle registrations in the United Kingdom contracted by 31% to 483,557 cars during the first quarter of 2020 — 217,479 fewer cars than were registered for the first time in Britain during the first three months of 2019.

In the wake of restrictions imposed by the Coronavirus crisis, new car sales in Britain were down 44.4% in March 2020 to 254,684 cars – over 200,000 cars fewer than a year ago. This was the worst March numbers this century – even during the financial crisis, new car sales in March 2009 were down 30.5% to 213,543 cars.

March is traditionally by far the strongest month for car sales in the UK, as new number plates are issued. (September also gets a boost from new plates but to a lesser extend being later in the model year.)

In contrast, the German new car market contracted by 38% in March 2020 and the French market, where restrictions were imposed earlier, collapsed by 72%.

The SMMT lowered its outlook for the British new car market in 2020 to 1.73 million vehicles — 25% lower than 2019.

Fuel Types of New Cars in the UK in 2020 (Q1)

Car sales by fuel type in Britain during 2020 (Q1)

Petrol remained the most popular fuel type for new cars registered in Britain during the first quarter of 2020 with a market share of 60.5% (65.3% in 2019/Q1). Diesel took an 18.9% (26.8%) share.

Sales of battery-electric vehicles (BEV) increased by 204.4% to 18,256 cars and a market share of 3.8% (0.9% a year ago). DriveElectric previously predicted that nearly 100,000 electric cars will be sold in the UK in 2020, which would require a 260% increase in sales.

Hybrid cars of all configurations increased sales and market share in the UK thus far in 2020.

Best-Selling Car Brands in Britain in 2020 (Q1)

New passenger registrations numbers released by the SMMT showed the following as the top-selling car marques in Britain during the first three months of 2020:

10Land Rover20,07523,84023,815-15.79
Source: SMMT

Top-Selling Car Brands in the UK in 2020 (Q1)

As the Coronavirus effect on the British new car market hit different carmakers sales strategies in different phases, not too much should probably be read into the relative rank positions and even sales numbers for the first quarter of 2020.

Of the top 20 brands in Britain, only one brand (Mercedes-Benz) was at the same sales rank position as during the first quarter of last year. Only three of the top 30 brands could increase sales volumes during the first quarter of 2020 (MG, Lexus, and Porsche).

Volkswagen, for the first time ever, outsold Ford to become the best-selling car brand in Britain. Although VW has been gaining on Ford in recent years, the effect of the Coronavirus probably played a major role in — Ford was still ahead during the first two months of 2020.

While VW sales were down a quarter, Ford sales were weaker than the broader market. BMW similarly outperformed the market to move ahead of both Mercedes-Benz and Audi. Mercedes-Benz maintained fourth place with sales just below market average while Audi gained one place.

Toyota gained one place with sales down “only” 15.5% — the best performance of the top 20 brand in Britain during the first quarter of 2020. Nissan gained one place with a nearly similar performance.

Vauxhall was again the worst performer of the larger carmakers in the UK – sales were down by more than a half with only Dacia performing worse of the top 30 brands. Vauxhall slipped from third-largest car brand in Britain to seventh. Kia slipped one position.

Land Rover entered the top 10 from 12th with a strong performance. The Range Rover Evoque was the 10th best-selling car model in Britain in March 2020. Peugeot dropped from 10th a year ago to 13th.

The best-performing top 30 brands in Britain in 2020 (Q1) were MG, Porsche, and Lexus — the only three brands with higher volume sales too.

The worst-performing top 30 brands in Britain in 2020 (Q1) were Dacia and Vauxhall with sales down by more than half. Smart dropped out of the top 30 (29th to 36th) with sales down 85%.

Top Ten Best-Selling Car Models in Britain in 2020 (Q1)

The SMMT identified the following as the ten top-selling car models in Britain during the first three months of 2020:

1Ford Fiesta15,89723,47432,80838,20536,32739,80439,240
2VW Golf14,58717,41221,20319,22319,42819,43519,160
3Ford Focus14,03616,66815,56023,88620,65622,28724,759
4Vauxhall Corsa12,06417,64715,35221,30524,57929,10023,839
5Nissan Qashqai11,80816,42016,91419,07118,68018,68612,937
6Mercedes Benz A-Class10,21316,63212,213NANANANA
8Kia Sportage8,374NANANANANANA
9BMW 3 Series7,861NANANANANA11,027
10VW Polo7,34813,089NA15,45315,16214,82113,631
Source: SMMT

Top Ten Car Models in the UK in 2020 (Q1)

The Ford Fiesta narrowly remained the favorite car model of the British but sales were massively lower during the first quarter of 2020 compared to a year ago. The Fiesta was the only top ten model in the same relative rank position than in the first quarter of 2020.

The VW Golf improved another sales position to take second. The Golf was the top-selling car model in Britain in both February and March 2020 but narrowly failed to take top slot for the full quarter. The Golf should benefit from the availability of more models of the new Golf 8 later in the year.

The Ford Focus gained one place while the Vauxhall Corsa slipped from second to fourth.

The Nissan Qashqai gained one place and remained the best-selling SUV in Britain during the first quarter of 2020. The Mercedes-Benz A-Class slipped one position while the Mini was up one.

The Kia Sportage entered the top ten for the first time while the BMW 3-Series was in the top-ten best-selling car models in Britain for the first time since 2014. The VW Polo slipped to 10th from 7th. The Toyota Yaris and Ford Kuga dropped out of the top ten.

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.