The car manufacturers that bucked the trend with a successful 2021

Last year was rough for the car industry, but some companies saw success amongst the gloom.

Hyundai Ioniq 5
Hyundai Ioniq 5

Last year was a difficult one for the car industry. It followed a tough 2020, which had been hit by dealership closures and factory shutdowns during the pandemic, with many hoping 2021 would see a boost in sales to compensate.

However, that never materialised, as supply issues largely caused by a shortage of computer chips meant many manufacturers struggled to deliver cars to their customers.

Figures from industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that sales hovered around the same mark as 2020, increasing just one per cent.

Looking at the data at a more granular level shows some car makers really struggled to get cars out of the factory doors in 2020. For example, Ford sales dropped, making it lose its place as the best-selling manufacturer in the UK to Volkswagen.

Among the gloom, though, these are the car manufacturers that bucked the industry’s struggles and saw a positive 2021.


Hyundai Tucson

South Korean brand Hyundai has been one of the real success stories of recent years. In the past decade it has switched from a budget brand making average family cars to a mainstream manufacturer making genuinely desirable models.

Huge investment has introduced improved driving dynamics, smart styling and better quality materials, while the introduction of the N performance brand has elevated desirability. It has clearly dodged much of the chip shortages, with sales up over 20,000 units on 2020 at about 70,000 – almost back to pre-pandemic levels.


Kia EV6

Hyundai’s sister firm Kia had a similarly successful 2021. It has also seen a similar transformation, pushing its electric vehicle technology and establishing itself as one of the go-to family car brands.

Last year it also saw sales increase about 20,000, shifting 90,817, which is again close to pre-pandemic levels.



MG has been one of the real success stories of recent years. The British brand has a long history and in recent memory has been close to extinction, but after being bought by Chinese firm SAIC it has seen a resurgence.

It has pitched itself as a budget brand that builds smart and solid cars that have everything you need without luxury frills. It has found particular success with its electric cars, which have a decent amount of range but are the least expensive in their segment.

MG sold 30,600 cars last year, up 12,000 on 2020 and more than double what it achieved in 2019.


Cupra Formentor

It would be easy to leave Cupra off this list because it’s such a new manufacturer. Originally used as the name for Seat’s performance cars, it was spun off into its own brand in 2018, and only started officially selling cars under its own banner in the UK in 2020, registering 162 vehicles.

It’s no surprise, then, that it’s had a massive increase in sales in 2021. However, to go from just 162 in 2020 to more than 7,500 sales is very impressive. Its smart styling and choice between electrified and performance engines has seen it sell more than other new and niche manufacturers such as Polestar and DS Automobiles.


Tesla Model 3

Tesla is a tricky one to quantify, since it doesn’t officially release its sales figures, showing up on SMMT data as part of ‘other imports’. It’s only recently that the Tesla Model 3 was actually named when it made it into the top-sellers list.

However, if we look at the ‘other imports’ section, sales were up over 10,000 to 36,347. The Tesla Model 3 made up the majority of that, with 34,783 units shifted, making it the second-best-selling car of the year – an incredible feat for an electric vehicle.

Tesla has been resistant to the issues of the past two years as it already used an online sales model before the pandemic, and makes its own chips in-house.


Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost

Luxury car manufacturer Rolls-Royce has not released UK-specific data, but with the British brand building its cars at a factory in Goodwood, West Sussex, it’s interesting to see how successful it was last year.

According to figures released today (January 10) by the company, it had its best year in its history, setting sales records in various markets around the world. Its global sales of 5,586 was an increase of 49 per cent on 2020.

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