New car registrations in 2020 slumped to their lowest level since 1992. This is according to figures released by the SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders).
A total of 1.63 million new cars were registered in a year hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Sales were down 29 per cent – the biggest decline since 1943, when the car industry switched to building munitions for the country’s war effort.
Predictably, the Ford Fiesta topped the sales chart, with the Vauxhall Corsa, Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Mercedes-Benz A-Class completing the top five. A place in the top 10 for the Ford Puma gives the 2020 table a distinct 90s vibe. Indeed, eight of the best-selling nameplates were on sale at some point in the 1990s.
The top 10 looked very different in 1992, when the UK was still recovering from the effects of the recession. Although 1.6 million cars were registered in that year, this was down from 2 million in 1990. Rising interest rates, tumbling house prices and high unemployment put a severe strain on the beleaguered car industry.
Things did improve. The country’s GDP recovered in the second half of 1992, having recorded its sharpest drop in a decade. On a day known as Black Wednesday, the pound was forced out of the ERM (European Exchange Rate Mechanism) in September. Although the currency fell, it soon rose again, as the country started its recovery.
UK car sales increased to 1.78 million in 1993, followed by 1.91 million in 1994.
What were the best-selling cars of 1992? It was a good year for the Ford Escort, which returned to the top spot at the expense of the Ford Fiesta. A total of 121,140 Ford Escorts were registered in 1992, almost 12,500 more than the car in second place: the Vauxhall Cavalier.