UK October 2017: First ever Top 10 for the BMW 4 Series

The BMW 4 Series breaks into the UK Top 10 for the very first time in October.

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The UK market is getting worse every month with a 7th consecutive year-on-year decline in October and the first double-digit drop since last April at -12.2% to 158.192 registrations. This is the weakest October result since 2013. Year-to-date, UK sales are now down 4.6% to 2.224.603 units. SMMT predicts a Full Year 2017 down 4.7% to 2.565 million units. Double-digit sales decline is across the board with fleet sales down 13% to 83.931, business sales down 26.8% to 4.324 and private sales down 10.1% to 69.937, gaining one percentage point of market share at 44.2% vs. 43.2% in October 2016. Year-to-date, private sales are down 6.4% to 992.910 or 44.6% vs. 45.5% a year ago, fleet sales down 3% to 1.143.937 or 51.4% vs. 50.6% and business sales are down 3.3% to 87.756 for an unchanged 3.9% share. The main culprit this month are diesel-engined vehicles down an abysmal 29.9% to 62.349, losing ten percentage points of market share in one year at 39.4% vs. 49.3% in October 2016. This is the result of uncertainty on city bans of the engine that has prompted UK buyers to step away from diesel cars. Petrol sales are up 2.7% to 87.599 or 55.4% share vs. 47.3% a year ago. Alternatively fuelled vehicles (mainly hybrid and electric) continue to surge at +36.9% to 8.244 and 5.2% share.

The VW Golf climbs to #2 year-to-date, overpowering the Ford Focus. 

The Top 4 carmakers outperform the market, even though the podium in entirely in negative: Ford drops 9% to 12.4% share which is one percentage point above its YTD level, Volkswagen is down a minimal 2% to 8.7% vs. 8.1% year-to-date, only 57 units above sister brand Audi down 7% to 8.7% share also vs. 6.8% so far this year. Mercedes gains 7% this month as it does year-to-date to jump to a stunning 7.7% share vs. 7.1% in 2017. BMW is down a harsh 18% to 7% in 5th place, still above its 2017 level of 6.7%. Things are getting out of control at Vauxhall: the brand steps out of the UK Top 5 for the first time in BSCB’s record with deliveries plummeting 35% to just 6.2% share. This follows lows of #5 last April and September. For reference, Vauxhall remained at #2 in the UK for 22 of the 24 months of the years 2015 and 2016, only dropping to #3 twice. The carmaker’s buyout by PSA Peugeot-Citroen and announced plans to cut the UK workforce seem to have discouraged UK buyers. Nissan, down 31% to #7, is also struggling. Reversely, Toyota delivers the only double-digit gain in the Top 10 at +13%. Further down, notice Abarth (+11%), Ssangyong (+12%), Seat (+16%), Alfa Romeo (+29%), Lotus (+30%), Infiniti (+32%), Aston Martin (+71%) and Maserati (+85%) all posting strong gains whereas Mazda (-25%), MG (-25%), Fiat (-27%), Renault (-27%), Dacia (-29%), Mini (-34%), DS (-35%), Smart (-36%), Jaguar (-39%), Subaru (-61%) and Jeep (-64%) all fall even faster than the market.

Second ever Top 5 ranking for the Mercedes A-Class in the UK.

The models ranking is the theatre of a few striking events this month. The Ford Fiesta reclaims the monthly top spot after an excruciating four months drought (its last pole position was in May), this despite a 7% drop to 4.6% share. The VW Golf (+23%) celebrates a 6th consecutive month in the Top 2 with a historical #2 spot year-to-date, eclipsing the Ford Focus by 536 sales. If held until the end of the year, this would be by far the Golf’s highest annual ranking in the UK since the nameplate launched back in 1974 and its first ever podium: its previous best is #4 hit in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Another milestone the VW Golf is about to reach is being the very first foreign nameplate since records began to rank on the UK annual podium. At the moment it holds the #4 record position with the Peugeot 206 which reached that level in 2002. The Ford Focus is up 10% year-on-year and one spot on last month to #3 and the Nissan Qashqai dives down 21% to #4 after historically topping the monthly UK ranking in September.

The Kia Sportage equals its highest ever ranking at #6 despite a 18% drop.

The surprises are not over in the UK October models chart: the Mercedes A-Class is up four ranks on September to land in 5th place, the nameplate’s second Top 5 ranking this year – and ever – after hitting a record 4th place last April. This is only the 6th time the A-Class appears in the monthly UK Top 10, the first one being in July 2016. Despite a 18% year-on-year drop, the Kia Sportage climbs to #6 overall, equalling its highest ever UK ranking also hit last July. It is the 7th time the Sportage has managed to crack the monthly UK Top 10, the first one being in February 2016. At #10, the Ford Kuga delivers its 5th Top 10 ranking after August 2015, August 2016March 2017 and August 2017. Last but not least, we have a new nameplate in the Top 10 this month: the BMW 4 Series, and this is a surprise as it wasn’t aimed by BMW at being its most popular nameplate. Launched in 2013 as a coupe version of the 3 Series, the 4 nevertheless manages a fantastic 9th place in October, and thus becomes only the third BMW on record to break into the UK Top 10. The previous two are the 3 Series (highest: #3 in December 2006, last: #9 last June) and 1 Series (highest: #5 in December 2012, last: #10 last April). As a reference the 4 Series ranked #31 over the Full Year 2016.

Previous month: UK September 2017: Nissan Qashqai first Japanese model to rank #1

One year ago: UK October 2016: Market up 1.4%, Audi > VW for second time in 3 months

Full October 2017 Top 40 brands and Top 10 models below.

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UK September 2017: Nissan Qashqai first Japanese model to rank #1

The Nissan Qashqai is the best-selling vehicle in the UK for the first time in history.

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The UK market suffers a sixth consecutive month of decline in September, one of the two biggest months of the year as it coincides with new license plates, down 9.3% to 426.170 registrations. This is the first September decline since 2011, pulling the year-to-date total down 3.9% to 2.066.411 and setting the UK towards its first year in negative since 2011 also. The uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the weak pound has delayed purchase decisions and made cars dearer, all combining to affect the UK market negatively. As a result, business (-5.2%), private (-8.8%) and fleet sales (-10.1%) are all in negative this month. Once ultra-dominant Ford (-19%) and Vauxhall (-26%) register the harshest declines in the Top 10 just as Vauxhall falls to a record-low 5th place for the third time this year. Volkswagen has a very solid month, up 8% to 8.5% share vs. 9.3% for Ford, while BMW (-3%), Mercedes (-2%) and Audi (-5%) all decline slower than the market, resulting in improved shares. Aston Martin (+11%), Alfa Romeo (+12%), Seat (+14%) and Infiniti (+59%) are the only carmakers posting double-digit gains in the Top 40, whereas Mazda (-20%), DS (-29%), Smart (-29%), Subaru (-33%), Bentley (-39%), Fiat (-42%), Ssangyong (-54%), Lotus (-57%) and Jeep (-58%) all implode.

The VW Golf posts a 5th consecutive month inside the UK Top 2.

The main event for the month in the UK is the first ever pole position of the locally-produced Nissan Qashqai in the models ranking. The Qashqai had ranked #2 twice before in the UK (January 2016 and April 2017) but had never been the best-selling vehicle in the country before, making it the very first Japanese nameplate to top the charts of any of the Top 4 European markets (Germany, UK, France and Italy). Coincidentally, the Qashqai is also #1 in Spain this month, which means it should easily beat its record European ranking of #5 (hit in February/March 2013, and February/July 2017). Its UK sales are up a whopping 27% year-on-year to 13.499 which actually isn’t the nameplate’s UK volume record (13.742 last March).

There are a few explanations to the Qashqai’s historic first place this month. See below.

So, why the Qashqai and why now? There are a few explanations to this historic #1 spot. Firstly, it wouldn’t have happened without the excruciatingly long generation transition (and more premium positioning) the traditional leader, the Ford Fiesta, is enduring: down another 45% this month to #3 overall. Secondly, a facelifted version with updated equipment and technology launched in July, renewing the interest for the nameplate. We have reached out to both SMMT and Nissan UK for more insights but they remained surprisingly tight-lipped. So we’ll propose a few additional explanations. With the Vauxhall Astra falling by the wayside recently (-48% this month), the Qashqai is one of only a handful of high volume models still produced in the UK, the other two local productions in the September Top 10 being the Mini (#7) and Nissan Juke (#8).

With the pound at record lows, these local productions give more discount leeway to dealers compared to dearer imports from the European Union – such as the Fiesta or Corsa, but then again, the Golf, also imported, is up 16% to a close #2 in September… On uk-car-discount.co.uk, rebates on the new Qashqai range from £3.425 to £6.924, or 18 to 23% of its retail price. In September 92.2% of Qashqai were purchased in England, traditionally fleet-heavy, vs. 90.4% year-to-date, and the Qashqai only appeared in one other nation’s Top 10: #7 in Wales. It did not make it to the Northern Irish nor Scottish Top 10s: logical in Scotland, but not in Northern Ireland. This seems to indicate a particularly strong fleet month for the Qashqai benefiting from heavy discounting. Nissan UK’s silence about its star nameplate’s performance even given pointed questions would make us incline towards that explanation, keeping in mind discount-boosted private sales were also strong, but in England only.

Previous month: UK August 2017: Golf #1, Mokka X and Kuga break records

One year ago: UK September 2016: Fleet sales edge market up 1.6% despite Brexit

Full September 2017 Top 42 brands and Top 10 models below.

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UK August 2017: Golf #1, Mokka X and Kuga break records

First UK podium for the Vauxhall Mokka X. 

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UK new car sales are down year-on-year for the fifth consecutive month in August at -6.4% to 76.433 units, yet this is the third highest result for the month in the past decade below August 2016 (81.640) and 2015 (79.060). The year-to-date tally is down a moderate 2.4% to 1.640.241 sales. In August, private sales are down 9.9% to 33.597 and 44% share vs. 45.7% a year ago while fleet sales are down 3.2% to 41.899 and 54.8% share vs. 53% in August 2016. Year-to-date also the market is pulled by fleet: private sales are down 53% to 718.934 and 43.8% vs. 45.2% in 2016 while fleet sales are down just 0.03% to 859.713 and 52.4% share vs. 51.2% over the same period a year ago.

The VW Golf is #1 in the UK for the second time in the past three months. 

In the brands ranking, Ford tumbles down 21% year-on-year to 12.1% share while Volkswagen enjoys a fourth consecutive month in 2nd place thanks to sales surging 22% to 9.1% share. Vauxhall (-22%) is back up two spots on July to #3 but now only has a 1.649-sales advantage over VW year-to-date. Audi is up 2% to 8.2% share in 4th place, well above its YTD level of 6.6%. Kia is down 20% but remains at #8, Skoda (+9%) stays in 9th place vs. #12 year-to-date while Toyota soars 25% at #10. Below, Mitsubishi (+19%), Seat (+23%) and Suzuki (+27%) impress whereas Peugeot (-18%), Citroen (-21%), Jaguar (-22%), Renault (-25%), Fiat (-25%), DS (-38%) and Jeep (-58%) all struggle.

The Ford Kuga hits a record 6th place this month.

Model-wise, the VW Golf, up a spectacular 23% year-on-year, returns to pole position for the second time in the past three months and the the third time ever after February 2011. It distances the Ford Fiesta (-51%) by just 43 units. The Vauxhall Mokka X spectacularly signs its first Top 10 ranking and the first for the Mokka nameplate since August 2016. It also smashes the previous Mokka ranking record by landing on the podium for the first time at #3 (previous best: #5 in November 2015). The Ford Kuga is the second nameplate to smash its ranking record this month: up to #6 vs. a previous best of #9 hit last March and in August 2016. It’s only the fourth time we see the Kuga in the UK Top 10 (add August 2015 at #10)

Previous post: UK First Half 2017: Now available with Top 150 models (BSCB Exclusive)

Previous month: UK July 2017: Ford Focus and VW Golf on top, market down 9.3%

One year ago: UK August 2016: Audi outsells Volkswagen for the first time

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UK First Half 2017: Now available with Top 150 models (BSCB Exclusive)

The Nissan X-Trail is up 62% to #30 in the UK so far this year. 

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We now have access to an H1 2017 Top 150 models ranking for the UK which normally restricts its model info to the Top 10. We learn that the Kia Sportage (+5%), Nissan Juke (+7%) and Ford Kuga (+11%) are nipping at the heels of the Top 10, all within 1.600 units. The Vauxhall Mokka on the other hand has slipped out of the Top 10, down 14% to #16 despite the arrival of the new Mokka X. The Fiat 500 (-12%) is also losing touch with the 10 best-sellers at #18 over the period. In contrast, they Hyundai Tucson is up 15% to #19, the VW Tiguan up 55% to #22, the Hyundai i10 up 17% to #25 and the Nissan X-Trail up 62% to #30.

The Land Rover Discovery Sport breaks into the UK Top 25. 

Further down towards the end of the Top 50, we also have a series of big gainers: the Dacia Sandero is up 13% and 13 spots to #44, the Citroen C3 up 85% to #45, the Ford Ecosport up 10% to #46, the Volvo XC60 up 24% to #47 and the Peugeot 3008 up 118% to #48. Among locals, the Range Rover Evoque (+3%) is down one spot to #23, the Land Rover Discovery Sport is up 15% and 6 spots to #24, ahead of the Jaguar XE (#63), Jaguar F-Pace (#67), Land Rover Discovery (#68) and Range Rover Sport. As far as recent launches are concerned, the Toyota C-HR lands at #57, the Audi Q2 at #79, the Seat Ateca at #82 and the Fiat Tipo at #87.

Previous post: UK July 2017: Ford Focus and VW Golf on top, market down 9.3%

Previous H1 2017 post: UK First Half 2017: Mercedes shines, places C-Class and A-Class in Top 10

One year ago: UK First Half 2016: Record volume but Brexit brings cloudy horizon

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UK July 2017: Ford Focus and VW Golf on top, market down 9.3%

The Ford Focus is #1 in the UK for the first time in 4.5 years. 

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The UK new car market endures a fourth consecutive month of year-on-year decline in July at -9.3% to 161.997 registrations, the lowest result for the month in five years, leading to a year-to-date tally down 2.2% to 1.563.808 units. All channels are down: business sales are down 23.8% to 5.106, fleet sales are down 10.1% to 89.186 and private sales down 6.8% to 67.705, actually improving their share of the total UK market at 41.8% vs. 40.7% a year ago. Year-to-date, fleet sales are up 0.1% to 817,767, business sales down 0.2% to 60.656 and private sales down 5% to 685.385 and 43.8% share vs. 45.1% over the first seven months of 2016. Petrol cars are down 3%, diesel cars down 20.1% but alternatively fuelled vehicles are up 64.9% to 8.871 units for a new record 5.5% market share.

July registrations 2001-2017 – courtesy SMMT 

Brand-wise, the two UK behemoths are in fact solely responsible for the market decline: Ford plunges 24% to just 10.5% share vs. 11.8% YTD while Vauxhall freefalls 42% to 5th place overall and 7.1% share vs. 7.9% so far this year. This means Volkswagen (+0.4%) remains 2nd while Audi surges 11% to a stellar third place with 8% market share vs. 6.6% YTD, passing BMW (-6%) YTD to now rank 5th. Mercedes (-0.3%) meanwhile gains one spot on June to #4. Skoda (+21%), Toyota (+20%), Seat (+32%) and Porsche (+65%) are the only manufacturers posting a double-digit gain inside the Top 30, while Peugeot (-30%), Citroen (-26%) and Fiat (-45%) also struggle greatly.

The VW Golf misses out on two consecutive months at #1 by just 15 sales. 

After the shock of having the VW Golf as its overall leader for only the second time in history last month, the UK models ranking gets another surprising reshuffle in July, with the Ford Focus taking possession of the pole position and the VW Golf missing out on an incredible two consecutive months at #1 by just 15 units… It is the first time the Ford Focus ends the month at #1 in the UK since February 2013 and only the 5th time it does so in the past seven years (add January 2011, November and December 2012). Last month the Ford Fiesta had its 29 month-long stint in the UK #1 spot interrupted, and instead of reclaiming its rank in July, it falls further down the charts with sales plummeting down 58% to #4 overall, the nameplate’s lowest monthly ranking in the UK since February 2011 when the VW Golf ranked #1 in the UK for the very first time. This fall could be caused by the transition to the new generation.

Kia Sportage UK August 2016The Kia Sportage ranks at a best-ever 6th place overall in July.

The Nissan Qashqai (+2%) jumps four spots on June to land on the third step of the podium, the VW Polo is up 3 but down 22% year-on-year and both the Vauxhall Corsa and Astra painfully lose half their sales compared to June 2016… The Kia Sportage surges to an all-time record 6th place overall, beating its previous best of #8 set in August 2016. It is the 6th time the Sportage has managed to crack the monthly UK Top 10, the first one in February 2016 and the last one in January 2017. Finally, the Mercedes A-Class (#9) and Audi A3 (#10) return into the Top 10, the latter for the first time since last April.

Previous post: UK First Half 2017: Mercedes shines, places C-Class and A-Class in Top 10

Previous month: UK June 2017: VW Golf becomes best-seller for the first time

One year ago: UK July 2016: Vauxhall Astra and Mercedes A-Class shoot up

Full July 2017 Top 42 brands and Top 10 models below.

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UK First Half 2017: Mercedes shines, places C-Class and A-Class in Top 10

Mercedes is up 11% and the C-Class up 24% so far in 2017. 

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A Top 150 models ranking is now available here

The changes to Vehicle Excise Duty, effective April 1, have triggered a pull-forward effect resulting in an all-time record March figure in the UK. In turn, this has led to a First Half total very close to the record sales hit in 2016. The UK market is down just 1.3% to 1.401.811 units, the second highest First Half score in history. Looking into the detail by channel, fleet sales tighten their hold on the market at +1.5% to 728.582 while business sales are up 2.7% to 55.550. Private sales in contrast are down 4.8% to 649.059 and now account for 44.1% of the UK market vs. 45.7% a year ago. All-in-all, a largely artificial performance of the UK market so far in 2017.

Jaguar posts the largest year-on-year gain in the Top 30 at +23%.

In the brands ranking, the Top 3 best-sellers continue to see their combined share drop at 27.7% vs. 29.2% a year ago. If Ford (-2%) and Volkswagen (-1%) roughly follow the market with stable market shares year-on-year, Vauxhall is in great difficulty at -15% to just 8% share vs. 9.4% a year ago. In contrast, Mercedes surges 11% top leapfrog both BMW (+1%) and Audi (+0.2%) to rank 4th overall. Nissan (+8%) and Kia (+9%) impress in the Top 10, with the latter up two spots to #9 whereas Peugeot (-13%) slips out at #11. Land Rover (+7%), Seat (+20%), Volvo (+8%), Suzuki (+9%), Jaguar (+23%) and Porsche (+13%) shine further down.

The Mercedes A-Class breaks into the YTD Top 10 in the UK. 

Model-wise, the Ford Fiesta remains in the lead and is headed towards a 9th consecutive annual win in the UK, despite a 7% drop and being outsold by the VW Golf for the first time in June. The freefall of the Vauxhall Corsa (-21%) has triggered a reshuffle atop the sales charts: the Ford Focus (+3%), VW Golf (-2%) and Nissan Qashqai (-0.2%) all gain one spot compared to a year ago while the Corsa is down to #5. If these rankings were to hold until the end of the year, the VW Golf (#3) and Nissan Qashqai (#4) would hit all-time highs. Helped by the new generation, the Vauxhall Astra is up a solid 14% but remains in 6th place. The Mercedes C-Class posts the largest gain in the Top 10 at +24% and is up three spots to #7. The Mercedes A-Class breaks into the Top 10 at #10 and makes it two Mercs in the Top 10, as many as Ford, VW and Vauxhall.

Previous post: UK June 2017: VW Golf becomes best-seller for the 2nd time ever

One year ago: UK First Half 2016: Record volume but Brexit brings cloudy horizon

Full H1 2017 Top 10 models and Top 42 brands vs. Full H1 2016 figures below.

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UK June 2017: VW Golf becomes best-seller for the 2nd time ever

The VW Golf is up 30% to snap its 2nd ever UK pole position. 

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It’s a third consecutive month of decline for the UK new car market which continues to readjust after the recent changes to Vehicle Excise Duty triggered a pull-forward effect in March. Sales slow down their fall in June at -4.8% to 243.454 units, bringing the year-to-date tally down 1.3% to 1.401.811 units. All channels decline this month: private sales are down 7.8%, fleet sales down 2.4% and business sales down 8.3%. Alternatively fuelled vehicles on the other hand are up 29% to 10.721 registrations, holding a record 4.4% of the market for the second month running.

The Ford Focus is up 21% to #3. Picture whatcar.co.uk 

Brand-wise, leader Ford falls faster than the market at -10% to 11.1% share while Volkswagen surges 18% to hold the 2nd place for the second consecutive month, outselling Vauxhall in freefall at -18%. BMW (+2%), Mercedes (+1%) and Audi (+4%) follow, with BMW overtaking Audi for 5th place year-to-date. In the Top 20, only Seat (+15%) manages a double-digit year-on-year gain along with Volkswagen. Further down, Porsche (+30%) and Dacia (+45%) shine while among struggling manufacturers, Renault (-20%), Fiat (-21%), Citroen (-22%), Infiniti (-33%), Subaru (-38%), DS (-51%) and Jeep (-75%) fare the worst.

The Vauxhall Astra is up 24% in June in the UK. 

The models ranking is the theatre of an extremely rare event: a new #1. For the first time since December 2014 (Vauxhall Corsa), the Ford Fiesta isn’t the best-seller in the UK. For only the second time in its 43-year career after February 2011, this honour goes to the VW Golf as it transitions with the facelifted model available this summer. The Golf soars 30% on June 2016 to 8.808 units, almost 200 more than the Fiesta down a harsh 24%. This first win earns the Golf a third spot in the year-to-date ranking, overtaking the Nissan Qashqai. The Ford Focus (+21%) and Vauxhall Astra (+24%) also impress inside the Top 4 whereas the Vauxhall Corsa (-35%) and Nissan Qashqai (-13%) are in difficulty. The BMW 3 Series (#8) snaps its first Top 10 UK ranking since last February.

Previous month: UK May 2017: Volkswagen #2 brand in market down 8.5%

One year ago: UK June 2016: Brexit triggers 2nd year-on-year drop in 4 years

Full June 2017 Top 10 models and Top 42 brands ranking tables below.

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UK May 2017: Volkswagen #2 brand in market down 8.5%

The Nissan Qashqai now ranks #3 year-to-date in the UK. 

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According to figures released by SMMT, the UK new car market drops 8.5% in May to 186.265 registrations, as the March pull-forward effect of the Vehicle Excise Duty changes is still making itself felt. The upcoming general election may also have had a dampening effect on sales this month. Private sales are mainly responsible for the sizeable downturn at -14% year-on-year to 76.554 units while fleet sales drop 5.3% to 103.657, accounting for 55.7% of the market, and business sales go against the grain with a 20.1% surge to a still discreet 6.054 units. Ignoring the surrounding depressed climate, alternatively fuelled vehicles gain 46.7% to reach a record 4.4% market share. Year-to-date, thanks to an all-time record March figure, the market is down just 0.6% to a still very dynamic 1.158.357 units. Private sales are down 4.2% but fleet sales are up 2.4% and business sales up 5.3%.

May sales 2001-2017. Source SMMT

The brands ranking is once again completely reshuffled. If last month the three German premium brands were the ones shining, this time Volkswagen climbs to 2nd place overall with a contained 2% drop to 8.4% share vs. 7.4% year-to-date. It’s the second time this year after last February that Volkswagen ranks #2 in the UK. Mercedes gains 7% to rank third with 7.9% share vs. 7.2% so far this year and Audi is down just 1% to 5th and 7.4% vs. 6.4% in 2017 so far. Mercedes and Audi assuredly benefit from solid fleet sales this month. Struggling are Ford down 14% to 11% share vs. 12.2% year-to-date, Vauxhall down 14% to 7.5% and BMW down 17% to 6.8%, albeit securing a higher market share than its year-to-date level of 6.8%. Further down, Skoda (+9%), Seat (+11%) and Volvo (+7%) are the only other manufacturers posting year-on-year increases in the Top 20. Below, Porsche (+25%), MG (+33%), Infiniti (+153%) and Abarth (+21%) make themselves noticed with substantial gains.

Model-wise, the Ford Fiesta remains faithful to the pole position, following the market at 8%. It is followed this month by the VW Golf back up five spots on April but down 5% year-on-year and the Nissan Qashqai improving 6%. The VW Polo (+10%), Vauxhall Astra (+7%) and Mercedes C-Class (+13%) also post year-on-year gains while the Mercedes A-Class remains inside the Top 10 at #10 and stays #9 year-to-date. Following another disappointing performance (-17%), the Vauxhall Corsa drops two spots year-to-date to #5, allowing the Nissan Qashqai to lift its ranking to #3 – if maintained until the end of the year this would be an all-time record – and the VW Golf to #4.

Previous month: UK April 2017: Qashqai teases Fiesta, two Mercedes in Top 4 in market down 20%

One year ago: UK May 2016: Brexit uncertainty cools market growth to +2.5%

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UK April 2017: Qashqai teases Fiesta, two Mercedes in Top 4 in market down 20%

The Nissan Qashqai is only 527 units off the overall top spot this month. 

* See the Top 10 best-selling models and Top 42 brands by clicking on the title *

After an all-time record month in March when registrations were pulled forward ahead of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) changes put in place on April 1, the UK market logically feels the pain in April: down a harsh 20% year-on-year to 152.076 units, the lowest April figure since 2012. Private sales are hit the hardest at -28% to 59.912 while business sales are down 21% to 5.486 and fleet sales down just 12% to 86.678 or 57% of the overall market vs. 52.2% a year ago and 49.9% year-to-date. At 972.092 units, the year-to-date tally remains above its level of a year ago by just 1.1%, reaching a new record.  Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, predicts demand will stabilise over the year as the turbulence created by these tax changes decreases.

2001-2017 April scores. Source SMMT 

The strength of fleet sales this month is reflected both in the brands and the models ranking, both vigorously reshuffled. The traditional market leader, Ford, drops 31% and is followed this time by the three premium brands in exceptional shape. Mercedes is up 10% to 2nd place overall with 8.8% share, its highest ranking and share in the UK ever. Audi drops 4% but frankly outsells Volkswagen down 41% to a paltry 6th place. Finally BMW is up 3% to rank 4th above Vauxhall (-33%). Other brands ignoring this month’s gloomy context are Hyundai (-3%), Kia (-8%) and Skoda (-9%) in the Top 10, Seat (+12%), Smart (+7%) and Ssangyong (+10%) below.

The Mercedes A-Class shoots up to #4 overall this month. 

The models ranking also gets a strong facelift. The Ford Fiesta remains in the lead but drops 37% year-on-year and has the Nissan Qashqai (-1%) only 527 units below. The Mercedes C-Class (+5%) shoots up 7 spots on last month to land on the third step of the podium while the Mercedes A-Class surges to a record 4th place thanks to 3.608 sales, making it two Mercedes in the Top 4 for the first time in UK history. The Audi A3 down just 5% to #8 and the BMW 1 Series up to #10 complete a fleet-biased Top 10. Almost all the traditional strong sellers take a bigger hit than the market itself: the Ford Focus is down 38%, the VW Golf down 43%, the VW Polo down 31% and the Vauxhall Corsa down 39%. Only the Vauxhall Astra is in line with the market at -19%.

Previous month: UK March 2017: Upcoming tax change triggers all-time record month

One year ago: UK April 2016: Volkswagen above Vauxhall, Kia Sportage in Top 10 again

Full April 2017 Top 10 models and Top 42 brands below.

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UK March 2017: Upcoming tax change triggers all-time record month

The Ford Kuga breaks into the UK Top 10 for the third time only. 

* See the Top 42 brands and Top 10 models by clicking on the title *

The February 2017 post has now been corrected with accurate model year-on-year behaviours.

With September, March is traditionally an extremely strong month for UK new car sales as it corresponds to the biannual license plate change, but this year a combination of events has allowed all-time records to be broken. The main element is a recalibration of the Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) taking place on April 1 and applied to vehicles purchased from that date forward. The changes include the end of a VED exemption for ultra-low emission vehicles. As a result, many purchases were brought forward to March in order to still benefit from the old regime and new car sales in the UK in March are up 8.4% year-on-year to 562.337, breaking a 20 year-old all-time monthly record established back in August 1997 at 525.897, this according to SMMT. This means the Q1 2017 tally stands at 820.016, up 6.2% on the same period in 2016 and here too a record.

2001-2017 March scores – Source: SMMT

All categories of buyers see sales increase yet, logically, it’s fleet and business sales that lead the charge as they can include bulk purchases that would benefit the most from a purchase pull forward. Fleet sales are up 12.6% to 46.6% share vs. 44.9% a year ago, business sales up 11.9% to 4.7% share vs. 4.6% in March 2016 and private sales up 4.4% to 48.7% share vs. 50.5% a year ago. This exceptionally high March sales figure has Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, saying: “We will see a slowdown in April, exacerbated by the fact there are fewer selling days this year given Easter timing”. The SMMT still predicts a slight sales decline over the FY2017 due to broader political uncertainties linked to Brexit.

This peculiar situation makes for some fascinating changes in the brands and models ranking. Ford more than doubles the market growth at +19% to 71.837 units and 12.8% share, similar to the share it holds so far in 2017 (12.7%). Local producer Nissan (+30%), Mercedes (+18%), Toyota (+14%) and Land Rover (+24%) also post double-digit gains inside the Top 10 but interestingly Vauxhall (-10%) and Peugeot (-5%) are the only brands to lose ground among the 10 best-sellers this month, potentially the reflection of the purchase of Opel/Vauxhall by PSA-Peugeot Citroen triggering some hesitation with buyers. Further down the ranking, Kia (+16%), Seat (+29%), Volvo (+30%), Jaguar (+69%) and Infiniti (+151%) are among the biggest gainers in market.

Illustrating its strength this month, Ford places two nameplates atop the models ranking for the first time this year with the Fiesta up 8% followed by the Focus up 22%. The Vauxhall Corsa is back up 6 spots on February to #3 despite a 8% drop, ahead of the Nissan Qashqai (+21%) and Vauxhall Astra (+17%) while the VW Golf is struggling at -17% and down four spots on last month to #6. The Mini is up 12% to 10.003 units, the Ford Kuga makes its third ever appearance within the UK Top 10 after August 2015 (#10) and 2016 (#9) in 9th position with a record 9.561 sales, and the Mercedes C-Class also maintains itself within the country’s 10 best-sellers this month at #10.

Previous month: UK February 2017: Golf pushes Volkswagen to #2 YTD, stable market

One year ago: UK March 2016: First half-million sales month this century

Full March 2017 Top 10 models and Top 42 brands below.

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