Even in this globalised world, car brands have a national character.
Mini trades on its British heritage, Renault sells its Frenchness while Fiat talks of its brands forming an “Italian village” – although how Chryslers made by Lancia fits into that category is an open question.
Thus it makes sense to look at sales performance by national brands. That does not mean sales by country of origin: the fact that some Porsche Boxsters used to come from a factory in Finland did not detract from its “Germany at its best” image.
Looking at the table, it is possible to draw conclusions without having to go anywhere near national stereotypes.
First of all, “British” brands have not done too badly over the last 10 years.
Of course, most of the sales have come from Ford (which has no car factories in Britain) and Vauxhall (which now only has one), but they are seen as British by the consume
The performance has been helped by brands originating in the UK – both Mini and Jaguar Land Rover are doing well.
In second place (and easily first place in terms of cars actually manufactured in that country) is Germany.
Its rise seems inexorable: the striking thing is just how steady is the rate of increas
Conversely, France has been almost the mirror image. While Audi, BMW and Mercedes have steadily widened their ranges to suit an ever-increasing number of willing buyers, the two largest French brands have struggled.
Both Peugeot and Renault grew in the 1980s and 1990s based on chic small cars (the 205 and Clio respectively), but their more recent small
cars have looked a little dull, while their larger cars (e.g. 407 and Laguna) fell well behind the opposition.
Of the Asian nationalities, Japan has been bouncing around with no clear direction – rather like Japan’s stagnant economy over the last decade.
It is hard now to remember the terror which Japanese car manufacturers caused in the west in the 1970s and 1980s.
Today Japan has no national automotive identity – a 1980s Nissan Sunny could trade on the image of invincible Japanese reliability, but today everything is reliable.
And so to the nationality that does cause real fear today: Korea.
Helped by dominance of a highly protected home market and a new-found knack of understanding European tastes, Hyundai-Kia is the combine with the strongest growth in the UK industry.
Hyundai spent the 1990s and most of the noughties obsessing about how to become the next Toyota.
What worries the western companies is that it has probably studied the recent problems of the Japanese with equal care.
No-one expects the Korean economy to burst like the Japanese one did 20 years ago – or Hyundai-Kia to become as inward-looking as many of the Japanese car companies.