Iain’s ‘favourite story’ of 2020 is also his latest story…
Being fairly reliant on ‘others’ to provide ‘ready research’ information, Iain Robertson is grateful to ‘carinsurance.ae’ for major spadework that reveals the world’s fascination for certain vehicle brands and the results are remarkable.
It is consummately easy to remain parochial on the best-selling statuses of some makes and models. For a number of years now, the UK has been a brand hot spot for Ford Motor Company; a No.1 position that has incredible resilience, when you contemplate that it commenced sometime around the launch of the original Ford Cortina in 1962, becoming solidified during the major fleet development years of the 1980s.
Yet, Ford deserted the UK vehicle manufacturing scene in 2002 at its Dagenham plant, located on the north bank of the River Thames, following 80 years of successful, if occasionally strike-riven production. Compounding the EU-centrification of its plants, the ‘Home of the Ford Transit’, north-east of Southampton, also ceased manufacturing responsibilities in July 2013. Unusually, as a measure of how small the impact of vehicle origins is these days in the UK, Ford’s business seems to have maintained momentum. Personally, I believe that there was zero logic to Ford’s decision, as it had a large and dedicated workforce that found itself high, dry but unemployed. The Fiesta model remains its best-seller overall in the UK.
In global terms, when US carmaker, General Motors (GM), was buying into various markets to expand its profile, it was also the largest player of them all. Yet, GM was also one of the worst managed of all carmakers. Its slash and burn policy caused mayhem for many independent manufacturers, including its ill-fated partnership with Fiat Group that resulted in the previous Italian market share being reduced from over 70% to markedly less than 30%. However, GM destroyed Swedish Saab, inflicted irrecoverable pain on Japanese Isuzu and Subaru, while denting Toyota and Suzuki, prior to retreating to its US homeland, awaiting a major survival hand-out from the US government. GM remains a market leader in Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt and Uzbekistan, a shadow of its former self.
Ford dominates the North American vehicle scene with its F-Series pickup trucks but, apart from the UK (Fiesta, Kuga and Focus), its market influence is only felt in some parts of Asia and New Zealand, where the Ranger pickup is its best-seller. The other ‘third’ of the formerly dominant US trio, Chrysler-Jeep, entered a strategic alliance with the struggling Fiat Group (to form Fiat-Chrysler Automotive). It should be highlighted that Chrysler was bankrupt and only with help from both Canadian and US governments was a deal brokered with Fiat, which now owns it lock, stock and barrel. However, even that relationship is under threat courtesy of the Chinese State-funded but Gallic PSA Group. Incidentally, the Fiat Panda is Italy’s best-selling model.
Although the French-based PSA (Citroen, Peugeot and DS brands) was knocking on death’s door around six years ago, a cap-in-hand appeal to its Chinese partner, Dongfeng, resulted in enough of a cash injection to enable the acquisition of the former GM charges of Vauxhall (in the UK) and Opel (in Germany). However, the plot thickened, when PSA attempted a Sino-funded 50:50 alliance with Italian FCA, in 2019, which would make the combined Group the fourth largest in the world. While appearing most satisfying for China, which is keen to break into other world car markets, the resultant marriage is already drawing unfavourable comments from many quarters, not least the finance sector. Intriguingly, the French market is dominated by the Renault Clio, which is also the best-seller in Portugal and Tunisia.
Despite being wounded by GM, Toyota, which held the No.2 position in the world stakes for several years, even becoming a US best-seller before Congress reacted with both airbag and brake pedal scandals, continues to battle with the enlarged VW Group for world domination. Toyota tops the sales charts in Iceland (RAV4), Peru (HiLux), Argentina (HiLux), South Africa and several African states (HiLux), Kazakhstan (Camry), Tanzania and East Africa (Land-Cruiser), Australia (HiLux), several Asian countries and the Republic of Ireland (Corolla). It is aided by a strong brand reputation for total reliability. Toyota is No.1 in Japan with the Prius.
The other GM combatant, Suzuki, is heavily reliant on its domination of the Indian car market, where it is represented by both its own and locally made Maruti brands but it also majors in Bolivia with the Grand Vitara model. It is No.1 in India and Sri Lanka with the Alto model.
While VW’s worldwide growth has been phenomenal, it remains No.1 in Germany with the Golf but does not top the charts in other markets. The Volvo V60 is Sweden’s best-seller, while Tesla has hit the top spot in lightly populated Norway and Holland with the Model3 electric vehicle. The Lada Granta is Russia’s best seller, although it is a brand that remains largely ignored outside its domestic scene. The locally produced Seat Leon is Spain’s No.1 model, although the Kia Sportage takes No.1 glory in the Ukraine, with the Hyundai Grandeur claiming top spot in its South Korean domestic market. Renault-owned Dacia performs strongly in its Romanian home market. Interestingly, the Chinese produced Lavida model is VW’s biggest seller in that nation.
In summary, the most in-demand vehicle in the world, favoured by no less than 17 countries, is the Toyota HiLux pickup truck in its various guises. It is followed in second place by the Toyota Land-Cruiser, a full-size SUV, in 10 countries, while the Skoda Octavia trails in third place, being a favourite in seven nations including Switzerland, Austria, Croatia, Poland and its domestic Czech Republic.
However, in terms of total sales, it is the Toyota Corolla compact family car that maintains a global top-selling model status since 1974 (over 1.5m sales annually). The next most populous model is Ford’s F-Type pickup truck (over 1m), followed in third place by the Toyota RAV4 SUV (1m) and keenly contested by the Honda CR-V SUV (0.9m) and Honda Civic ranges (0.82m).
Conclusion: When looking at car brands in the UK, it is easy to ignore a world picture, despite our market having been a ‘dumping ground’ for many carmakers over the years. Despite Covid, despite Brexit, the motor industry remains in moderate health, although more mergers and takeovers are sure to occur in coming months.