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Market Insight: Imports of British cars slow

Slowing down: A range of factors have combined to contribute to a reduction in new-car sales from the UK.

Brexit, model cutbacks and moving plants offshore trim imports to Australia


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31 May 2021

THE once-powerhouse of automobile manufacturing is a shadow of its former self as Britain becomes rattled internally by changes coming as it breaks links with the European Union and externally by the appeal of cheaper labour rates of rival countries.


For Australia, it is beginning to show the decline as Honda ends production in England and other car-makers reduce their production or move offshore.


British-made passenger cars and SUVs imported into Australia in the four months this year account for 2.9 per cent of the total, down from 2.8 per cent in calendar year 2020 and 3.5 per cent in 2019.


By comparison, vehicles from China numbered 2927 units in 2016 against the UK’s total of 35,581. In 2019, China sold 30,696 vehicles here compared with the UK at 28,025.


At its peak in the past 12 years, England held a 3.9 per cent stake in 2013 after building it from 1.3 per cent in 2009, almost entirely on the expanded export program driven by Nissan and Honda.


Currently, the main manufacturer importing into Australia from the UK is Nissan, which makes the Qashqai, Juke and Leaf at its plant in Sunderland in the north-east of England.


Nissan imported 12,259 Qashqai units in 2016 – the year that ended the Dualis name used previously – which has slid to 7057 units in 2020, primarily because of the effects of COVID.


Also in 2016, its UK plants made and imported into Australia 42 Leaf EVs and 2382 Jukes which in 2020, sold 370 units and 1048 units respectively.


Nissan’s Sutherland plant has made examples of the Pulsar and X-Trail in periods since the start of this century.


Honda, which once imported the CR-V diesel and Civic liftback into Australia, now only brings in the Civic Type R – but only for a short period of time before production goes to Japan.


There are the UK domestic brands that have imports into Australia, led by Land Rover that makes the bulk of its vehicles in England, except for the Discovery that is made in Slovakia.


Land Rover sold 6339 units in 2020, less than half its 2016 figure of 13,597 and the 10,089 of 2018.


Aston Martin, Bentley and Rolls-Royce also source all their Australian-spec vehicles from the UK, while Jaguar makes the majority of its models in England except for the E-Pace and I-Pace SUVs that come from the Magna Steyr plant in Austria.


Jaguar is selling about 2.5 times less than what it did six years ago, with 1326 sales in 2020 compared with the 2679 in 2018 and 3008 in 2016.


The BMW-owned Mini range is made in England, with the exception of the Countryman and convertible that use UK-stamped parts but are assembled in the Netherlands.


Its sales in Australia have been more consistent than fellow UK-made brands Jaguar and Land Rover, with 3105 Minis sold in 2020, down from the 3590 sold in 2018 and 3765 in 2016. The 2020 figure is attributed to the market decline and effects of COVID.

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