Monday, 10 July 2017

UK Car Sales Local vs Import: 1960-80


I always liked statistics and cars. The Internet allowed me to bring them together for an interesting hobby. I was also given some sage advice about hobbies, that was don't get too broad in scope but specialise. I have kept to makes rather than models, and I have focused on one area in particular, the UK car industry. It's checkered history is like a soap opera.

Mk II Cortina. c. 290,000 were made in the UK in 1967

With that in mind, now that 'frenetic January' has passed and the 2013 annual data has been shared with you all, I will try to give 1960's to today coverage of the UK car making industry, interspersed with other articles in case that is not your cup of tea. Starting with 1960-80, I collected data for sales and production separately and while generally OK, it did raise the odd flag.

The fine looking Hillman Hunter. c. 140,000 were made in 1969

1960s: Why did sales of locally made cars drop so much in 1961? (See chart below) The two manufacturers I have data for, Rootes (mainly Hillman) and Vauxhall had sizable reductions in production, over 100,000 between them. Still, I am sure imports didn't leap and fall quite like that, so the data may be in need of slight refinement. Anyway, normal dominance by locally made cars returned until 1969/70 when local cars started to lose share. Vauxhall dropped suddenly again and BL's formation around that time and the rationalisations that took place impacted as well.

In 1971, a record 318,500 Minis were made in the UK

1970s: UK sales increased rapidly in the early 70's but that wasn't matched by local production. Ford was reducing the models it made locally through that decade and BL's lack of investment in R&D was hurting its sales. Chrysler Europe - which now owned Rootes - lost money, the owner's interest and production volume. It was sold off to Peugeot in 1978. Vauxhall's car range was now poor (due to inept management) and models were being pruned, production naturally plummeting.

The Chevette came along in 1975 and improved Vauxhall's poor image


YrTotalLocal% localImport % imp

60820,088782,83995.5%37,2494.5%

61756,054633,22383.8%122,83116.2%

62800,239704,50288.0%95,73712.0%

631,030,694992,11296.3%38,5823.7%

641,215,9291,188,25797.7%27,6722.3%

651,148,7181,094,47895.3%54,2404.7%

661,091,2171,047,63596.0%43,5824.0%

671,143,0151,049,41791.8%93,5988.2%

681,144,7701,139,36599.5%5,4050.5%

69965,410945,43997.9%19,9712.1%

701,076,865950,62788.3%126,23811.7%

711,285,6611,020,84679.4%264,81520.6%

721,637,7751,293,83279.0%343,94321.0%

731,661,6391,148,50569.1%513,13430.9%

741,271,009969,90076.3%301,10923.7%

751,196,185751,47662.8%444,70937.2%

761,288,092837,65365.0%450,43935.0%

771,323,525852,99464.4%470,53135.6%

781,591,941756,56747.5%835,37452.5%

791,716,275660,33438.5%1,055,94161.5%

801,513,661564,59937.3%949,06262.7%

Summary: The 1960's were a time of success for the industry. By the 70's, lack of investment was catching and undermining the good done a decade before. Imports had gone from 4.5% in 1960 to 62.7% in 1980. Blasé management coupled with militant workers led to a decline that was precipitous. The soap opera was in full swing.

PS. As I live far away from the UK, some local residents may wish to express their pennies worth. Perhaps distance can bring some objectivity though.

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