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Five decades of Britain's best-selling cars

By raccars Published

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What were Britain's best-selling cars before the Ford Fiesta?

Every month the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) publishes an updated list of Britain's best-selling new cars, which for the last few years has been almost tediously predictable, led by the Ford Fiesta.

The first new car sales records were compiled in 1965 and at the time the Austin/Morris 1100 was Britain's best-selling model. By 1975 Ford had become the best-selling manufacturer in the UK and has been ever since.

Best selling cars of the previous five decades

Sixties: Austin/Morris 1100

Nearly 160,000 1100s were registered in 1965, giving it a market share of 14.3 per cent out of a total of just over a million cars sold that year. The Ford Cortina was Britain's best-selling model of 1965, followed by the Mini and then the Ford Anglia. Vauxhall made the best sellers list with the Victor in fifth place, which was discontinued in 1976, and the Viva in sixth. As imports accounted for only five per cent of car sales during the Sixties, no foreign manufacturers featured in the top ten best sellers.

Seventies: Ford Cortina

The Cortina was the big car of the Seventies and just beat its stablemate the Ford Escort to the top of the best sellers list in 1975. Britain at that time was drowning in recession; new car sales had dropped by 24 per cent the previous year and were to drop another six per cent in 1975, to 1,194,000 units. The Ford Cortina first took the top spot in 1972, and Ford has made Britain's best-selling car list every year since then. The second best-selling model of the year was the Ford Escort, followed by the BMC Mini, the Morris Marina and the Austin Allegro. 1975 saw imports gain in popularity and account for a third of new car sales, although the top ten was still devoid of foreign manufacturers.

Eighties: Ford Escort

The Escort was threatening the Cortina by 1975 and in the Eighties it became Britain's favourite car. 1985's top sellers list featured the Ford Escort with 157,000 units sales followed by the Vauxhall Cavalier in second place. The Ford Fiesta was in third place and would go on to reach best seller status by 1990, but in 1985 it was closely followed by its great rival and Princess Diana's car of choice, the Austin/MG Metro in fourth place. The Ford Sierra was fifth.

Nineties: Ford Escort

By 1995 the ageing Ford Escort had spent 12 years at number one and by 1998 it was replaced by the Ford Focus. The best sellers list of 1995 was dominated by Ford, with the Escort followed by the Fiesta in second place and the Mondeo, which had replaced the Sierra in 1993, in third. The next three places were held by Vauxhalls, the Astra, Cavalier and Corsa, with the Rover 200 in seventh. 1995 saw Peugeot reach record sales for a foreign nameplate in the UK, selling 56,112 units of the 306. The Nineties also saw the arrival of the Koreans on British shores: Hyundai, Kia and Daewoo.

2000s: Ford Focus

By 2005 the Ford Focus had been Britain's best-selling car for three consecutive years, but the best seller lists of the Nineties were notable mostly for the boom in sales of cars from foreign manufacturers, which now made up half of the top ten. The Vauxhall Astra took second place followed by the Corsa, then the Ford Fiesta. The VW Golf in fifth had finally joined the top ten after three decades in production, and in 2002 the record for highest volume sales by a foreign model was set - and stands today - by the Peugeot 206 at 101,019 sales.

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