British Automotive Tastes Through The Decades

  • Of 111 Bugattis registered in the UK, 43% are sorned.
  • Ford has remained the most popular car in unit sales on the road for the last 20 years
  • No British cars in the top five most popular cars of 2014

Ever since the first automobile was patented by Karl Benz in 1879, cars have been something of a status symbol. The cars we choose reflect both our personality and our lifestyle, so it’s a matter of no small interest for sociologists, to spot the trends in transport.

OSV, the UKs best independent vehicle supply professionals, have recently commissioned research to reveal the changing tastes of theBritish driver during the course of the last twenty years. The results, somewhat surprisingly, show that not an awful lot has altered, with many of the favourite car brands of 1994 still topping the popularity charts in 2014; in fact the top three remain entirely unchanged, with Ford, Vauxhall and VW hogging the roads as the nation’s favourites.

Top Five Brands of 1994

  1. Ford – 6,425,364
  2. Vauxhall – 3,224,556
  3. Rover – 1,473,058
  4. VW – 1,175,375
  5. Nissan – 1,070,276

Top Five Brands of 2014

  1. Ford – 5,427,459
  2. Vauxhall – 4,082,888
  3. VW – 2,991,465
  4. Renault – 1,653,844
  5. BMW – 1,558,858

That being said, there has been some notable movement elsewhere in the charts. Chrysler, it seems have really had the pedal to the metal when it comes to increasing sales – their numbers having grown by a phenomenal 1,037 per cent in the last twenty years. There were fewer than 7,000 Chrysler vehicles on UK roads in 1994, there are now just shy of 75,000!

Although the numbers are on a much more modest scale – not surprisingly, given the price tag! – Bugatti has experienced a similar, 1,100 per cent growth spurt. In 1994 there was just one Bugatti registered owner in the UK, there are now 111 in the country, although 48 of those were sorned (officially issued with Statutory Off Road Notification), so they’re not a common sight on your average winding country road.

While in 1994, VW was the only German car in the top five, in 2014 the prestigious BMW joined VW in the top five line-up, with more than 1.58m vehicles registered, up 236 per cent on 1994.

OSV also found it interesting to note the other side of the (racing) tracks – those cars that have fallen from grace somewhat. The most notable being that one-time British favourite the Rover, which has also seen numbers fall since the iconic brand reached the end of the road in 2005 there has been an 84.7 per cent reduction in the number of Rover vehicles in the UK, down from almost 1.5 million in 1994, there are now just 225,000, with 29 per cent of those sorned.

Sorned vehicles come in all categories, from prestige down to budget, and in 2014 there were more than 1.5m registered in the UK. While the top three sorned cars reflect the top three most popular brands, BMW again fills the number five spot, perhaps indicating that even the wealthy can be frugal.

Top Five Sorned Vehicles

  1. Ford – 275,495
  2. Vauxhall – 156,783
  3. VW – 148,286
  4. Peugeot – 120,249
  5. BMW – 102,409

Top Five Prestige Sorned Vehicles Percentage of UK-registered cars sorned in last quarter of 2014

  1. Bugatti – 43%
  2. Lamborghini – 21.5%
  3. Porsche – 18.2%
  4. Aston Martin – 15.9%
  5. Bentley – 14.4%

Among those exhibiting growth are electric cars, like the Tesla. Not even a thought in the designer’s head in 1994, the Tesla made its debut in 2008. In 2010 there were 48 registered, in 2012 there were 55 registered, but by the first quarter of 2015 there were 954 Teslas registered in the UK, that’s a prodigious increase and could be taken as an indication of the growing environmental awareness of Britain’s drivers.

Andrew Kirkley co-founder of OSV, said, ‘it’s really interesting to see how little tastes have changed in the course of the last twenty years, with the most dramatic fluctuations seemingly led by the insolvency of brands like the late lamented Rover, rather than by modern technological advances. That said, it also seems that Tesla, and other “green” vehicles could be ones to watch.’

‘At OSV we’ve spent most of the last two decades helping clients to find and finance their dream car, whether lease or purchase. Looking at the research figures, it seems that most of us aspire to own a relatively modest vehicle.

Rachel Richardson
  • 11th July 2016

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