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UK First Half 2018: VW and Seat strong, Mini at highest since 1980

Volkswagen is the best performing manufacturer in the Top 10, the Golf cements its 2nd place.

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

Brexit uncertainty crippling business prospects and consumer morale alongside aggressive government adversity towards diesel-powered vehicles combined to weigh the UK new car market down a steep 6.3% over the First Half of 2018 to 1.313.994 units, the lowest half-year result since 2014 (1.287.265). The two months of year-on-year gains (April and May) were only due to depleted year-ago months affected by pull-forward sales in the wake of Vehicle Excise Duty increases. Reassuringly, private sales outpace the market slightly at -4.9% to 587.256 units, resulting in a market share improved to 44.7% vs. 44.1% at the same stage last year. Fleet sales roughly follow the market at -7% to 677.614 and 51.6% share vs. 52% in 2017 and business sales plummet down 11.6% to 49.124 and 3.7% share. The diesel demise has never been so real in the UK with sales imploding down 30.2% to 428.612 and less than 1 in every 3 sale (32.6%) vs. 43.8% a year ago. In contrast, petrol sales gain 11.4% to 812.535 and 61.8% vs. 52% halfway through 2017. The only piece of good news comes from alternatively fuelled vehicles up 24.2% to 72.847 to hit a record 5.5% share vs. 4.2% at the same stage last year.

Seat is the only Top 20 carmaker to post a double-digit year-on-year gain so far in 2018.

In the brands ranking, once ultra-dominant Ford (-14%) and Vauxhall (-13%) fall much faster than the market, resulting is contracted shares at 11.1% (#1) and 7.5% (#2) respectively, which according to BSCB records should sadly equate to lowest ever market shares for both brands. Volkswagen (+5%) is an island of positivity in a sea of gloom, cementing the 2nd place it acquired just last year and scoring in June the uncontested main event of 2018 so far by historically snapping its very first pole position in UK history. BMW (-0.3%) manages to almost equal its H1 2017 volume thanks to a supercharged June tally (+20%) to overtake Mercedes and take the leading premium role.

Thanks to the new ZS, MG sales in the UK are up 115% in 2018.

Mercedes (-7%) matches the market while and Audi (-1%) gains a little share. Nissan crumbles 30% and goes from 6.1% to 4.5% share but remains at #7, with Toyota (-0.1%), Kia (+2%) and Hyundai (+2%) staying solid to close out the Top 10. Illustrating the current weakness of the UK market, only one manufacturer manages a double-digit gain inside the Top 20: Seat, up 22%. Large uplifts are more frequent further down the ranking, led by MG (+115%), McLaren (+48%), Abarth (+33%), Porsche (+17%), Subaru (+15%) and Mitsubishi (+14%), even though scathing falls happen more often, with the hardest hit including Infiniti (-74%), Smart (-36%), Aston Martin (-30%), Fiat (-30%), Ssangyong (-29%), DS (-24%), Maserati (-24%), Lotus (-20%) and Renault (-15%).

The Mini is up to 6th place, its highest since 1980 if held until the end of the year.

Over in the models aisle, even though its 6th generation isn’t the smashing success Ford would have hoped for, it enables the Fiesta to do a little better than the UK market at -5% over the First Half of 2018, comfortably headed towards a 10th consecutive year in pole position. The VW Golf simply delivers the best performance in the Top 10 with a 9% year-on-year gain enabling the star nameplate to step up to #2 year-to-date, overtaking a freefalling Ford Focus (-23%) that will need all the sales its new generation, on sale this August, can muster. The Nissan Qashqai (-10%) held a record 3rd spot up until the end of May but falls back to #4 at the half-year mark with the Vauxhall Corsa (-17%) holding the 5th spot like in 2017.

The Vauxhall Astra is likely to be slipping out of the annual UK Top 10 for the first time since the 1981 nameplate’s launch.

The Mini (-8%) manages to gain three spots despite falling faster than the market to reach #6, and if this is held until the end of the year it will be the highest annual ranking of the rebooted Mini launched in 2000 (its current best being #7 in 2009) and the highest for the Mini nameplate since 1980 (#4). As a reminder, the ‘original’ Mini, sold under a succession of brands (Austin Morris, BMC…), reached an all-time best of #2 in 1971 and remained inside the annual UK Top 10 until 1981. The Ford Kuga (+4%) shoots up 5 spots to #8, pencilling 2018 as the year of its first annual Top 10, all the while knocking the Vauxhall Astra out of this very Top 10, and if this is confirmed at year-end it will be the first time ever the Astra nameplate does not make it to the annual Top 10: it ranked #9 for its first year in market in 1981 and never looked back, yet never topping annual charts either.

Previous post: UK June 2018: Historical win for Volkswagen, BMW up to record #2 spot

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

Full H1 2018 Top 42 brands and Top 10 models vs. Full H1 2017 figures below.

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