2012 was a very strange year for the motor industry. Some car makers did well whilst others languished at the back of the pack. The results of the overall figures for the year are surprising. Astonishingly, sales of new cars were actually up by five percent over the previous year with well over two million cars sold; and we are supposed to be in a depression.
The recent news of lay-offs at Honda Swindon made for unhappy reading yet the problem doesn’t lie in the UK but rather in the European market where sales are in the doldrums. Only the Germans bought more cars than us. It’s interesting to note, by the way, that Britain’s motorists buy more cars in one month than are sold in a year in each of three Euro-countries – the Czech Republic, Norway and Denmark.
Also coming as a surprise is the type of vehicle sold. We know that hard-pressed drivers are buying at the budget end of the market but that’s not the full story. For some manufacturers, sales of more prestigious cars are also buoyant whereas makers like Toyota and obviously Honda are suffering.
Audi, for example, apparently sold 67,000 cars here in 2002, but in cash-starved 2012 they sold 124,000. That’s impressive. Mighty BMW have been equally successful, and in the UK – and the whole world over probably – the all-conquering Volkswagen machine can do no wrong in the eyes of the buying public; so much so in fact that they are challenging Ford and Vauxhall for the top sales slot in our domestic market.
These days there is plenty of choice on the country’s forecourts but that choice is likely to dwindle a bit as some names we know well either give up on the UK market or give up completely. Daihatsu didn’t sell any cars in the UK last year and although the Japanese company isn’t under threat, their UK network might be unless they seriously refresh their model range.
And what about the weird goings-on at Lotus? Although there’s been plenty of big talk about new models, things don’t look too rosy for this auspicious name as sales flounder. We should be told. The major re-launch of the MG badge has gone off like a damp squib with few sales which possibly may be due to the dodgy history of the brand being relatively fresh in the mind of older buyers.
Over the channel in France the mixed fortunes continue. Renault and Peugeot are lagging behind possibly thanks to some rather lacklustre cars recently, and only Citroen have shown some spark with their well-timed DS range.
The figures show that no manufacturer can be complacent. The public know what they like and they know a good car when they see it. If some companies don’t catch on soon they may never come back from the brink.