A Raft Of Figures, A Wash Of Colour

Get ’em while they’re hot, they’re lovely…

(c) Carsite.co.uk

Everyone loves a bargain – conversations from Aberdeen to Ashby de la Zouch and beyond are frequently overheard concerning the used car game. Bought for a song! – maybe the deal included floormats, a tank of fuel (or these days, electricity.) Considering almost eight million used cars were documented as sold in the UK during 2019 – large numbers by anyone’s reckoning. Those pie slices get ever slimmer, according to the thousands of dealers attempting to bolster profit margins.

Figures mislead as easily as they inform, and our eyes can be better employed as judges of fact. Stroll down any high street or check out the car parks of those blighted areas used in the contrivance of retail therapy, and you’d be forgiven for considering those vehicles with an aspiring bent towards utility and sport as the ruling class. But are they?

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) figures suggest otherwise. Superminis were the leading shape of used cars for 2019 with 665,489 sold. What the SMMT term the Dual Purpose segment happened to enjoy the largest percentage growth of 9.1, equating to almost 230,000 vehicles. 

The lower and upper medium segment cars took 27% and 11.8% respectively but these figures include falls from 2018 set at a barely noticeable -0.8% and smidgen more -5.8%. My highly scientific interpretation sees that fewer people are shelling out for Five and Seven series (or XJ’s), although local COVID-19 walks have garnered the sights of recently purchased five to seven year old Five and Seven series parked on driveways, kerbside, etc. Including my hometown, London and Birmingham were the three so-called centres of used car sales.

Onto fuelling: combustion engined sales remain robust. The buying hordes prefer to see MPG before Range, emission scandals notwithstanding. With 4.5 million sales, petrol is king. The black pump user snapped up 3.3 million with both dropping by tiny margins. The reasons: accredited to battery electric, zero emission vehicles which surged the charts to the tune of 21.8%. In reality, a paltry 14,112 were sold – 0.2% of the used market. The oil providers must be wiping beaded brows.

Hybrid and PHEV type vehicles, known as Combined produced much stronger used results. 135,516 nabbing a 1.7% market share. Once more, my take is hardly representative but I know no-one who has or is about to change to a car powered by electricity. If anything, it’s the diesel powered PCP or Bangernomic criteria which comes to the fore – hard times out there in reality.

We shift (ahem…) focus to the most popular of those second (or more) hand jalopies, and in similar vein to those buying new, the Ford Fiesta rides high with 351,767 sold. Second and third are very close, with the Corsa just pipping the Focus. Even down in tenth position, the Clio comfortably saw sales of 127,000. That’s a large amount of blue ovals, griffins and rhomboids swapping hands with equally large helpings of propellers, four rings, along with Mittelandkanal roundels thrown into the melting pot.

The top ten sellers total 2.2 million, so what on Earth make up the remaining 5.7 million? Multiple sales of the same vehicle? And, whilst you’re asking, the average price of the 2019 UK used motor was £12,800. That will include just about everything from the (very few sold) Bugatti Veryon to the category-C crash victim sold for spares at £50. 

Steering away now from financial considerations toward a favoured subject – colour. In those eight million used car sales, would it surprise you that black came out top? A cool 1.7 million (all types) came in Henry’s favourite shade. Those wearing argent tones taking second at 1.49 million, followed by blue at 1.37 million. Grey is but fourth. However, this figure will increase for the battleship hue is currently in vogue with new car sales. Whites and reds are mid-table. Positions seven to ten feature green, orange, beige (or buff, neither surely offered as such) where forty four thousand signed on the dotted line, believing that jaune/gelb/custard could bring forth motoring sunshine. 

Bizarrely, pink was 2019’s fasting growing used car colour. Up by 14.2% and weighing in at 5,098, one wonders at what shades of red, but not quite are sold and to whom. A cerise Golf, anyone? Fuchsia E-Class? How’s about a Jaguar XF in Raspberry or maybe the temptation of that Blush Volvo XC90 being too much to ignore. Especially when the salesperson throws in a rose scented air freshener…

Somebody bought these pink cars, new – stump enough hard earned and the manufacturers will paint the body any shade you wish. Nevertheless, it could not be ascertained if this meant the whole car being pink or perhaps simply highlights such as wing mirrors, bumper areas, door embellishments, etc. In the past year these eyes have widened at seeing an entire Micra, an Evoque and a Bratachian in what could be described as candy pink. Other descriptions are available. 

(c) as shown. Image: Dailymail.co.uk.

Suitably armed, you may find yourself empowered to eschew the crowd, and instead channel Arthur Daley’s spirit – the UK’s king of used car salesmen lingers on, as a raft would on the open sea. Buying second (or more) hand can be a decidedly choppy experience. Steer carefully.

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

12 thoughts on “A Raft Of Figures, A Wash Of Colour”

  1. Colour:
    I’ve seen a Lancia Lybra in a very ripe Cerise — or mature Burgundy if you like.
    Lancia usually had colours saying: “They paid extra for this luxury car.”
    Alas, I cannot visit the car, as the owner’s now self-isolating.
    What times we live in.

  2. Another informative article Andrew. I’ve hardly seen any new 70 platers out there, but looking around where I live, quite a few owners have changed their cars recently but with second hand. Not currently in the market myself, but I bet there are a few bargains to be had as dealers try to shift some stock.

  3. Good morning Andrew. It’s useful to be reminded that SUVs, despite the level of comment they attract, are not the dominant force as far as sales go, and superminis still rule the roost.

    That raises the question of which one might consider if one was in the market for a B-segment hatchback, purely on the basis of design and appearance. The Ford Fiesta deserves its place at the top of the sales chart and one wouldn’t go wrong by buying one, but their sheer ubiquity would discourage me from doing so. The issue is, of course, exacerbated by the current model’s similarity to its predecessor.

    The VW Polo would once have been my default ‘sensible’ choice, but the current model is a complete mess in design terms. The current Škoda Fabia is still a handsome small car, but the mid-life facelift spoilt its front end for me with those ‘squinty’ headlamps. The Audi A1 is a Polo in a (not very nice) expensive party frock.

    The Mazda 2 (Mazda Mazda2?) is worth a look, but I don’t think Mazda’s current design theme works so well on a small car and the huge front grille is ungainly. The Toyota Yaris gives me a headache to look at because there’s so much going on. Ditto, the Nissan Micra. The Honda Jazz is too MPV-ish, and even I’m not old enough for its demographic.

    The Peugeot 208 suffers from an overwrought front end: the grille is too big and the ‘fang’ DRLs are annoying, as are those misaligned door handles. The Citröen C3 is excluded simply because of those crudely blacked-out A-pillars that look awful except on a black (or black-roofed) car Could one get them sprayed body colour instead? The new Corsa is nice, but says “I’ve no interest whatsoever in cars, hence I bought a Vauxhall Corsa”.

    The Renault Clio is nice, but I have an irrational aversion to hidden rear door handles.

    I’m running out of options. The Fiat Panda is still nice but getting long in the tooth, while the new 500 is less pretty than its predecessor and too self-consciously retro.

    I almost overlooked this, the latest SEAT Ibiza:

    That’s the one, a clear winner for me in design terms.

    In reality, we’ll hang onto our mini in the hope that it’s successor is, as promised, better proportioned with a shorter nose, and buy an EV version.

    1. In recent years it seems that Fiat have been the bravest in offering interesting and attractive colour options, followed by Vauxhall. But as for Daniel’s ‘which would I choose’ question, I am at something of a loss. I’m inclined to agree that the Ibiza is not at all bad looking. However, these days my first choice of vehicle to use is either a Jowett or, if I want fresh-air motoring a Triumph Vitesse; “her indoors” provides the modern vehicle, currently a Panda Cross – with which we can find no fault. In fact, I think it’s brilliant and would have another without a second thought.
      But if I lived in a large conurbation (God forbid) I might be tempted to import a new Citroen Ami….

    2. Yup, like the Ibiza a lot too, but the Clio wins on my book (just get over the hidden door handle thing).

    3. Daniel, you’ve illustrated Vauxhall/Opel’s woes in Europe very succinctly. Their products just aren’t top choice in any segment they are involved in.

      If I was shopping for a new supermini, my personal shortlist would be: Fiesta, Ibiza, Jazz. Any of those three would make a fine purchase, but you would have to literally bribe me to consider a Corsa. And, of course, financial inducements eat into profit margin.

      Quite why they are unable to make genuinely appealing cars any more is beyond me. Now part of the PSA empire, the new models launched so far are without exception the least desirable in the stable. I don’t like SUVs but can see the appeal of the 3008 or C5. A Grandland? God no.

      Hire car companies and fleet managers, form a queue… everyone else is shopping elsewhere.

  4. Andrew discussed in his piece the popularity or otherwise of certain colours. That prompted me to wonder what colours are available as no-cost options on B-segment hatchbacks today. I trawled through the configurators and here are the results:

    Make and Model Price No-Cost Colour(s)
    Citroen C3 £16,280 Beige (Metallic)
    Fiat Panda £10,580 White
    Fiat 500 £13,020 Dark Grey
    Ford Fiesta £16,640 Red
    Honda Jazz* £18,985 Black
    Hyundai i20 £14,420 White
    Kia Rio £13,000 Brown
    Mazda 2 £15,840 White
    Mini Hatch £16,240 White
    Nissan Micra £14,500 Beige
    Peugeot 208 £17,155 Yellow
    Renault Clio £15,295 White
    Seat Ibiza £16,445 White or Red
    Skoda Fabia £12,990 Blue
    Toyota Yaris* £20,970 White
    Vauxhall Corsa £16,415 Navy (metallic)
    VW Polo £17,125 Dark Grey

    Predictably, U.N. white is the most popular ‘free’ colour. There are a few left-field choices, notably the Peugeot 208’s yellow, Citröen C3’s metallic beige, Kia Rio’s brown, and Nissan Micra’s beige. The most generous is the Vauxhall Corsa’s metallic navy, which doesn’t look like a no-cost option. Only Seat offers a choice of two no-cost colours.

    Take a look at those MRSP’s for the base models with no extras. There are some surprises there!

    * Hybrids

    1. Inflation – though I think also the cars are inflated compared to their predecessors. The best way to compare like with like is to do euro/kilo or pound/kilo. These superminis weigh the same as a Focus/Golf from 1999.

    2. As far as I can remember, white has been a free-option paint color since the 80s. I think that has to do with the price of white paint. White pigments are relatively cheap.
      Commercial vans come most in white – at least here in Germoney – because of cost advantage.
      But depending on the order quantity, an expensive paint color can also be favorable, which is why some manufacturers also offer “expensive” paints as free-options.

  5. I would expect most of the pink cars sold are Fiat 500s!
    That’s an interesting point about the cost of white pigments: I always presumed that light commercials tended to come in white because it was the easiest colour to which to apply one’s own branding…

  6. Is the base colour of the Mini no longer orange? That at least added some colour to car parks. I think the base colour of the Ford Ka+ was yellow until discontinued; the Ecosport may still be.

    No Dacia? White is the base colour for that, but it is notable for being the only firm to offer factory LPG option in the UK – and its prices end where some of that list begin. Also, Suzuki Swift (£12749) and Ignis (£13999) are both red – though Swift has hidden handles!

    Well done on trying that many online configurators, though – are car websites deliberately designed to keep people on the site for a while, or are they just awkward?

    1. Good morning Tom. When the current Mini Hatch was launched in 2014, both white and orange were offered as no-cost options. My partner and I chose one of the latter (although we forwent the option, also no-cost, for a black roof and door mirrors). I’m not sure when orange was dropped as a no-cost option.

      As to the configurators, they’re explicitly designed with one thing in mind: getting the potential buyer to spend more money! Actually, most were pretty straightforward to use and followed the same ‘model>engine>transmission>colour>’ format. Some were a bit coy about the cost of different colours, not displaying the figure until you chose the colour, then adding it to the total price. The configurator default colour wasn’t necessarily the no-cost option either. With one (I can’t remember which) you had to hunt for it.

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