If you were around in the 1970s and ‘80s, you might recall high-profile promotional campaigns such as ‘Drive The Flag’ and ‘Buy British’ from the likes of British Leyland and Chrysler UK, encouraging our parents to choose a British-built vehicle over a foreign one next time they bought a new car.
Back then, nationalistic pride and the need to support the local motor industry – at a time when many British products, build quality and frequent strikes were at an intolerable level – meant that many persevered with inferior UK-built cars such as the Austin Allegro, Morris Marina and Chrysler Avenger when superior quality overseas products like the VW Golf, Citroën GS or Honda Civic offered considerably more.
Buying British was particularly important in the patriotic fleet market sector, which accounted for the vast majority of UK new car sales at the time. It was considered essential for a British company to be seen supporting the local British motor industry, from the post room clerk’s Mini van, right up to the Chairman’s Daimler Double-Six.
British manufacturers like Talbot even went to the trouble and added expense of rebranding models like the Alpine hatch and Express van ranges to avoid losing vital UK fleet orders, which it would have done had these vehicles retained their original Simca and Peugeot badging.
Conversely, British Vauxhall reportedly lost out on early sales of its original 1976 Cavalier models when UK fleet managers discovered that the initial examples were built in Antwerp, Belgium, rather than Luton or Ellesmere Port! Today, some derivatives of the latest Astra are made at Vauxhall’s Wirral plant, but the vast majority of its new models are assembled overseas, from countries as diverse as South Korea, Spain and Poland, with little or zero impact on its modern-era sales.
Today, the Brand and the key features of a new car – image, running costs, performance, depreciation, safety and so on – seem to be far more important to new car buyers than where the car is constructed. As long as the build quality and image is right, we no longer care if our ‘British’ Ford is made in India, our German Audi is built in Hungary, our American Jeep is Italian, or indeed our Japanese Honda, Nissan or Toyota is British.
The benefits of globalisation mean that these days most marques build cars the world over, with many of them being offered to us Brits. Naturally there are exceptions to this, with manufacturers such as Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Bentley, Bugatti, Caterham, Dacia, DS Automobiles, Ferrari, Infiniti, Jaguar Land Rover, Lamborghini, Lexus, Lotus, Maserati, Mazda, McLaren, Morgan, Porsche, Rolls-Royce, Ssangyong, Subaru and Tesla currently only selling models here built in their country of origin. That said, in the past we have seen UK-built Mazdas (121), Finnish Porsches (Boxster), Hungarian Subarus (Justy) and British Teslas (Roadster) sold in the UK.
As for the other main car brands sold here in the UK today, here is a summary of the models not built in the home country where the parent manufacturer is based, including a few surprises that you may not be aware of! So, for example, is your German car really fully German, and if not, does it even matter? Here’s the answer…
Audi: All models built in Germany, with the exception of the A1 (Belgium), Q3 (Spain), TT (Hungary) and Q7 (Slovakia).
BMW: All German, with the exception of the X3, X4, X5 and X6 (USA).
Citroen: All French, except the C-Zero (Japan), C1 (Czech Republic), C3 Picasso (Slovakia), Nemo (Turkey), plus the C4 Cactus, C4 Picasso and Berlingo (Spain).
Fiat: All Italian, except the 500 and Abarth 500 (Poland), 500L (Serbia), Qubo, Doblo and new Tipo (Turkey), plus the new 124 Spider (Japan).
Ford: Although some Ford engines and key components are UK made, all current UK market models are built overseas, including the Ka (Poland), Fiesta (Spain and Germany), Tourneo (Turkey), B-Max (Romania), EcoSport (India), Focus and C-Max (Germany), Mondeo, S-Max and Kuga (Spain), Mustang and GT (USA) and the new Edge (Canada).
Honda: All Japanese, except Civic and CR-V (UK) and the new NSX (USA).
Hyundai: All South Korean, except i10 and i20 (Turkey), i30 (Czech Republic) and Tucson (Slovakia).
Jeep, All from the USA, except Renegade (Italy).
Kia: All South Korean, except Venga and Sportage (Slovakia) and the C’eed (Czech Republic).
Mercedes-Benz: All German, except A-Class (mostly Germany, but some built in Finland), CLA (Hungary) B-Class (German and Hungary), Citan (France), GLE and GLS (USA) and G-Class (Austria).
MG: All current models part built in China and the UK.
Mini: All British, except Paceman and Countryman (Austria).
Mitsubishi: All Japanese, except Mirage (Thailand).
Nissan: All Japanese, except Micra (India), Pulsar (Spain) and Leaf, Note, Juke and Qashqai (UK).
Peugeot: All French, except Ion (Japan), 108 (Czech Republic), Bipper Tepee (Turkey), Partner Tepee (Spain) and the RCZ (Austria).
Renault: All French, except Twizzy, Captur and Kadjar (Spain), Twingo (Slovakia) and Clio SportTourer (Turkey).
SEAT: All Spanish, except Mii (Slovakia), Toledo (Czech Republic) and Alhambra (Portugal).
Skoda: All Czech, except CitiGo (Slovakia).
Smart: Despite the brand being German, to date no Smart model has ever been built in Germany. All ForTwo models are made in France, with the ForFour built in Slovakia.
Suzuki: Only the Jimny is Japanese, with the Celerio (Thailand), plus Swift, S-Cross and Vitara (Hungary).
Toyota: All Japanese, except the Aygo (Czech Republic), Yaris (France), Verso (Turkey) plus the Auris and Avensis (UK).
Vauxhall: Some variants of the new Astra are UK-built, with other Vauxhalls made overseas as follows: Viva and Antara (South Korea), Agila (Hungary), Corsa (Germany and Spain), Meriva and Mokka (Spain), Adam, Astra, Zafira Tourer and Insignia (Germany), Cascada (Poland), Ampera (USA) and the VXR8 (Australia).
Volkswagen: All German, except the Up! (Slovakia), Polo (Spain), Caddy (Argentina), New Beetle and Jetta (Mexico), plus the EOS and Sharan (Portugal).
Volvo: All Swedish, except the V40, S60, V60 and XC60 (Belgium).
So now you know…
Vauxhall image courtesy of ‘Charles01’ licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0