The Austin Mini ranked within the UK Top 10 up until 1981
The direct links to 35 UK Historical Data posts are below.
Thanks to Chris, author of the book “British Leyland: Chronicle of a car crash“, I can now share with you more detail on the UK best-selling models since 1965, date of the first available SMMT data. In particular, there is now at least a complete Top 10 models ranking from 1965 to 1979 and sales of each Austin, BMC, British Leyland, MG, Morris and Triumph model over the period.
While the UK new car market grew from 1.1 million units in 1965 to a record 1.7 million in 1979, the most striking event at the time is the imports share going from a mere 5.1% in 1965 to a huge 56.3% in 1979, its first time ever above 50%… Most UK manufacturers would then disappear during the eighties at the same time as foreign carmakers like Peugeot, Toyota and Nissan started manufacturing cars in the UK.
Click here to find more used cars in the UK. Note: the Used cars link is brought to you by Exchangeandmart.co.uk.
The Ford Cortina holds the all-time UK annual sales record at 193,784 units in 1979
As a reminder and thanks to Florian there is also at least a Top 15 models ranking from 1985 onwards, a Top 30 from 1995 onwards and a Top 100 for 1989, 1990, 1993, 1994 and 2004 up until now. This is very rare as info beyond the Top 10 is very hard to find… Plus from 2004 onwards every Monthly Top 10 is available, that’s over 140 consecutive months.
Witness the last years of the Ford Anglia (Harry Potter’s car!) and the Austin Morris 1100, in the Top 2 from 1965 to 1971. Since 1972 or for the last 40 consecutive years, a Ford model has held the UK pole position: the Cortina (#1 for a total of 10 years), Escort (12 years), Fiesta (10 years) and Focus (10 years in a row from 1999 to 2008). The Cortina holds the all-time annual volume record in the UK with 193,784 units in 1979 whereas the Ford Sierra is the most successful model that never ranked #1, peaking at 175,911 sales in 1989.
Discover how foreign models started to get a grip on the UK ranking, starting with the Datsun Sunny, first japanese car to rank within the year-end Top 10 in 1977 (#10) and the Datsun Cherry, #8 in 1981, a foreign model ranking record that would only be beaten 16 years later in 1997 when the locally produced Peugeot 306 ranked #7. The Nissan Qashqai, manufactured in the UK, is the only other Japanese car to rank within the year-end UK Top 10, every year since 2010, breaking into the annual Top 5 for the first time in 2015. All-in-all, only two additional foreign cars managed to break into the year-end UK Top 5: the Peugeot 206 at #4 in 2001 and 2002 when it sold a record 101,019 units, and the VW Golf at #5 from 2005 to 2010 and #4 in 2011.
Follow year after year the sales of the legendary MGB, rediscover forgotten names like the Triumph Dolomite, Stag, Leyland Princess, Rover P6 and SD1, Morris Marina & Allegro and MG Maestro & Montego…
UK Historical Data:
Source: SMMT, Autocar, Wikipedia and manufacturers. Many thanks to Ryan P, Florian and Chris for helping compile the data.