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Ford might be the leading brand, but Volkswagen is the real force in the new car market

The Ford Fiesta is officially Britain’s best-selling car for the 10th successive year. According to the latest comprehensive data form the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), 2018 saw some 95,892 Fiesta models registered, some way ahead of the next best sellers, the Volkswagen Golf (64,829), Vauxhall Corsa (52,915), Nissan Qashqai (50,546) and stablemate Ford Focus (50,492).

In a market that was down about 7 per cent overall, sales of the Fiesta and Focus helped keep the Ford brand in the position of market leader, with more than one in 10 new cars registered having a blue oval badge on them – 11.3 per cent.

That market share is down marginally on 2017, and some way below the historic highs of over 30 per cent in the 1970s and 1980s.

Taking the automotive groups, combining all of VW’s brands (including Seat, Skoda and Audi) leaves the Volkswagen Group in pole position – at about 20.5 per cent, or approaching double Ford’s share.

Vauxhall, now part of Peugeot group (PSA) is on 7.7 per cent and PSA’s four brands (including Citroen and DS) totalled 13.3 per cent of new car registrations. The “dieselgate” scandal appears to have done little lasting damage to VW’s wider fortunes.

2018 saw an exceptional sales performance from the new A-Class (Mercedes-Benz)

Mitsubishi (up 31.5 per cent), Abarth (27 per cent), Subaru (17.2 per cent), Seat (12 per cent) and Volvo (9 per cent) were the big gainers among the mainstream brands, reflecting a mix of new, attractive models arriving in their dealers’ showrooms, such as the Volvo XC40, Seat Ateca and Arona, and various new Mitsubishi SUVs.

The Top Ten UK sellers, 2018

1 Ford Fiesta 95,892

2 VW Golf 64,829

3 Vauxhall Corsa 52,915

4 Nissan Qashqai 50,546

5 Ford Focus 50,492

6 VW Polo 45,149

7 Mini 44,904

8 Mercedes-Benz A-Class 43,527

9 Ford Kuga 40,398

10 Kia Sportage 35,567

Notable market losers include Infiniti (down 78.7 per cent to 750 units), DS (down 44.1 per cent), Nissan (-32.1 per cent) and Smart (-26 per cent).

Infiniti, the premium brand of Nissan, has radically slimmed down its model range, with only three products being offered to UK customers – the Q30 and QX30, and Q50.

An exceptional sales performance from the new compact Mercedes-Benz A-Class helped move the market share of what used to be a niche, premium player to fourth pace overall in the UK market – at 7.1 per cent.

The A-Class was the eighth best-selling model overall in 2018, and ranked in fourth position in December, ahead of the Corsa and just behind Mini.

Bentley in 2018 released the all-new 2019 Continental GT (Bentley)

Among the “British” marques, Bentley recorded a marginal slip in sales from 1,753 to 1,542, and an improvement of 9 per cent in Jaguar sales partially offset a 5.7 per cent drop loss of Land Rover’s (much larger) registrations.

Land Rover is one of a number of brands that have been affected by the recent controversies about diesel-powered vehicles.

Some 2,367,000 new cars were registered in 2018, down more than 173,000 on the previous year, with depressed business and consumer confidence and Brexit uncertainties adding to supply shortages and uncertainties about the future of diesel.

The SMMT forecast a further 2 per cent drop in demand this year, that is if there is no “hard Brexit”.