DATA showing the number of new cars registered for sale in the UK last year paints a gloomy picture for Vauxhall, one of Britain’s longest-established car manufacturers, and other popular names in showrooms.
Over the past year, Vauxhall, which has been building cars in the UK for more than 100 years, has seen sales tumble by more than 22% from 250,955 in 2016 to 195,137 in 2017, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
The picture over the past decade is bleaker still, with sales dropping from 331,321 in 2007. Vauxhall’s UK market share is now 7.6%, compared with 13.7% in 2007, and it sells 136,000 fewer cars in a year than it did ten years ago as increasing numbers of drivers switch to premium, German brands. Over the past decade Vauxhall sales fell by 41% while Mercedes sales grew by 120%.
Greg Clark, the business secretary, has rushed to Paris today to meet with Carlos Tavares, the boss of Vauxhall’s parent company PSA, in an attempt to safeguard the future of its factory at Ellesmere Port, near Liverpool. On Monday it was announced that PSA, which also owns Peugeot and Citroen, said it would cut 250 jobs — a third of the workforce — at the factory as it reduces its operation to a single shift.
Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, also said he was preparing for a meeting with Tavares, where he would would warn him not to close the factory or “we will make sure their market in the UK is finished for good,” he wrote on Twitter.
I’ve just told @bbcmerseyside that I will make it crystal clear to the PSA boss Carlos Tavares that if there is any attempt to close the Ellsemere Port Vauxhall plant we will make sure their market in the UK is finished for good. #strongunion
— Len McCluskey (@LenMcCluskey1) January 9, 2018
Vauxhall is not alone in suffering substantial sales losses in the UK over the past year, in which total sales of new cars in the UK dropped 5.56% year-on-year, the first downturn since 2011.
In 2016, Fiat sold 60,581 but only managed 44,475 in 2017, a fall of nearly 27%. French manufacturers also performed poorly, with Renault, Citroen and Peugeot sales dropping 18.79%, 18.31% and 16.55% respectively. Citroen’s upmarket DS brand performed even worse, with sales of 9,082 versus 15,898 in 2017, a decline of more than 42%.
The worst performer, according to the SMMT figures, was Jeep with just 6,380 cars registered compared with 14,090 the year before, or 54.72% fewer.
Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of the SMMT, said: “Falling business and consumer confidence is undoubtedly taking a toll, however, and confusing anti-diesel messages have caused many to hesitate before buying a new low emission diesel car. 2017 has been a very volatile year and the lacklustre economic growth means that we expect a further weakening in the market for 2018. The upside for consumers, however, is some very, very competitive deals.”
However, there were some big winners in 2017, for example Aston Martin, with 906 cars registered in 2016 but 1,471 registered in 2017. Infiniti saw UK growth, too, with registrations rising from 2,891 to 3,515.
Of the large-volume manufacturers Seat saw a big increase in sales, with an 18% rise from 47,456 in 2016 to 56,130 last year, and Mercedes grew from 169,828 cars to 180,970 over the same period. Mercedes leapfrogged Audi and BMW, as its rivals saw declines of 1.31% and 4.1% respectively.
And in a sign that the dieselgate emissions scandal has not damaged the Volkswagen brand, it beat the market trend by growing sales to 208,462 cars in 2017, from 207,028 the year before. VW now sells more cars in the UK than Vauxhall.
Top 20 car makers 2017 (by volume)
|MARQUE||2017||% Market share||2016||% Market share||% Change|
Data: The SMMT
The long-term trend
Over the past decade, Vauxhall’s long-standing rival Ford has seen Focus sales fall by nearly 45% (from 126,968 to 69,903), and the Fiesta is down by 8.1% (102,872 to 94,533). Overall, Ford sold 61,586 fewer cars in 2017 than 2007, a 17.6% drop.
Other well-known car makers to feel the rise of the German brands over the past decade include Peugeot, which has suffered losses of 16%. Renault is down by nearly 19%, Citroen 18% and Fiat fell by 26%.
Over the same period, Mercedes has increased new car sales by almost 120%, from 82,321 to 180,970. In the process it has overtaken Citroen, Honda, Peugeot, Renault and Toyota, as well as Audi, BMW and Volkswagen.
BMW has grown by 44%, from 121,575 in 2007 to 175,101 new cars in 2017. Audi achieved a 73% increase, from 100,864 to 174,982.
Only Volkswagen has suffered a slight fall in sales, dropping by 0.9%, from 197,020 to 195,137, further suggesting that the dieselgate scandal has done little harm to the company’s reputation.
Other UK car makers have fared better than Vauxhall. Land Rover has grown sales from 46,552 to 82,653, a 77% increase — and one that illustrates the booming popularity of 4×4, SUV and Crossover-type cars.