RAC Cars News


British automotive tastes changing

By raccars Published

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Recent research into the best selling brands and models of car in Britain over the last decade has shown just how fast moving and ever changing the auto industry has become.

There are a number of factors driving the change, not the least of which is the increase in the price of fuel. More than two and a half million cars were bought in Britain in 2004, of which a far larger proportion were from the luxury and sport segments than last year's 2.25 million - however the price of petrol at that time was about 80p per litre.

Instead, these days buyers are opting for more SUVs and city cars, with a market share expanding by an amazing 122% over the decade. However, the modern SUV is more of a crossover, as these tend to be significantly less thirsty than the rugged, heavy SUVs of ten years ago.

In 2004, cars in the supermini class were the best-sellers, accounting for 839,604 unit sales, followed by small family cars at 729,690 sales. SUV sales were at 179,439 units and the fourth most popular class of car, while city cars languished in eighth with sales of 36,171. Luxury cars were behind them with 13,620 units sold.

By 2013, superminis were still at the top of the league with unit sales of 813,092, and again followed by small family cars but, with 588,402 unit sales, these accounted for a lower percentage of total sales. SUVs have moved up to third place with 248,003 unit sales and while city cars have only moved up one place to seventh, unit sales are more than double the 2004 rate, at 80,377. The luxury sector is still the smallest selling segment, but unit sales have dropped dramatically over the decade to 8,346.

Similar changes have been noted not only in the kind of cars Brits are buying, but also the brands in favour. By far the biggest growth in market share has been seen by budget brand, Kia, whose sales were 33,419 units in 2004 compared to 72,090 in 2013 - that's an increase of 115.7%. The Korean brand's sister company, Hyundai, has experienced similar growth - unit sales of 37,611 in 2004 went up to 76,918 in 2013 for a 104.5% increase.

However, another budget brand, Proton, saw similar changes to its sales figures but in the opposite direction, losing 98.8% of sales - 1,754 units in 2004 down to a distinctly pathetic 20 units last year. Even the more established brands have fallen out of favour, with both Renault and Subaru sales dropping by about three quarters since 2004.

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