The UK is, of course, a country based on motoring. Aside from the abundance of cars on the roads, British is home to some of the world’s most popular and historic car manufacturers, such as Aston Martin, Land Rover, Bentley, Jaguar and Mini. With such popular vehicles produced right on our doorstep, it makes sense to find many of these on our own roads, right?

We took a look at statistics from the Department of Transport, highlighting all the different car makes and models registered in the UK. The results, when it comes to the most popular car makers and their nationalities, are not quite what you would expect.


Less than a fifth (18.2%) of cars on UK roads are considered British. In fact, British cars are only the third most common - you’re more likely to encounter American (25.8%) or German (23.5%) vehicles out on the road.

What counts as British?

It’s also worth asking what qualifies a car to be British? For many people, a British car refers to a company that was founded in the UK. Today, of course, cars are rarely made in ‘just’ one country but the engineering and design principles often stay true to a firm’s roots.

On the other hand, there are also brands with unique circumstances, such as Vauxhall. While Vauxhall might be a wholly British brand, unique to the UK, the vehicles are just rebranded Opel cars. Take the badge away, and a Vauxhall and Opel car are identical. So one could argue they are both German, even though they are owned under French Groupe PSA company. 

When looking at vehicles by their current country of ownership, the results change…


As you can see, when it comes to direct ownership of the manufacturer, only around 5.7% of cars are British. The most common country is, again, America, with over a quarter (25.8%) of all British car registrations. This is followed by Germany (19.3%), France (15.7%), Japan (14.4%), Italy (6.85) and South Korea (6.2%). In fact, UK cars are only the 7th most popular!

The most popular cars in the UK

Aside from nationality, what are the most popular brands? The most common, by far, is the American Ford brand. With over 4,433,000 individual vehicles, (13.94% of all cars), the brand is well positioned in the UK.

After Ford is Vauxhall, with 11.34%, the only British entry in the top 10. This is followed by:

What are the most popular British makes?

So, while British cars count for less than 1 in every 10 vehicles on UK roads, what British car makers are the most popular?


Of the various UK car manufacturers, the most popular are:

This would make Vauxhall the most popular British car make in the UK. As already mentioned, however, Vauxhall is owned by larger German and American interests. The next most popular option, Land Rover, is likewise owned by the Indian Tata Motors.

Moving down the list, Mini is owned by the German BMW, Jaguar also belongs to Tata Motors and MG is under the Chinese SAIC. As for the classic British Rover brand, this was sold to numerous manufacturers before ultimately becoming defunct and unused by 2005.

How does it differ geographically?

Of course, there are also regional variances across the UK. According to recent figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), we can see that certain makes of car are more or less popular depending on where in the UK you go.


To give an example of how popular various cars are, we can use the most popular new registrations in 2016, across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland:

  England Scotland Wales Northern Ireland
#1 Ford Fiesta (102,330) Vauxhall Corsa (10,095) Ford Fiesta (7,004) Ford Fiesta (2,037)
#2 Vauxhall Corsa (62,898) Ford Fiesta
Ford Focus (2,750) Volkswagen Golf (1,869)
#3 Volkswagen Golf (61,303) Volkswagen Polo (5,358) Vauxhall Corsa (2,533) Hyundai Tucson
#4 Ford Focus (61,131) Ford Focus (5,309) Ford Kurga (2,396) Volkswagen Polo (1,389)
#5 Nissan Qashqai
Vauxhall Astra (5,260) Volkswagen Polo (1,974) Nissan Qashqai (1,322)

It’s no surprise that a Ford, an American brand, is the most popular car in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as being the 2nd most popular car in Scotland. In fact, the Ford Fiesta was also the UK’s best selling car in 2015 - with 133,434 new registrations - and it is also the UK’s best selling car of all time. As for other brands, it’s clear that Ford, Vauxhall and Volkswagen dominate the recent market, yet only one of these has any British connection.

So, when you really think about it, just how British is British motoring? If these results suggest anything - not very.

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