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Remember these? Nine car makers who quit Britain

Graham Hope

23 Sep 2020

Gone but not forgotten, the car brands we've waved farewell to in the UK

The car market can be an unforgiving one, which explains the constant churn of brands. It’s always been this way; as new names arrive, familiar ones depart. And with the advent of electrification meaning the industry is about to undergo its biggest change in over a century, it seems a safe bet that there will be other manufacturers following Mitsubishi out of the UK exit door.

Since the turn of the century a number of makers have disappeared from British showrooms; indeed, a couple have shut up shop completely. Here we recall some of the makers whose cars, for good or for bad, are no longer sold in the UK.


Arguably the saddest story of them all. December 2011 saw Saab declared bankrupt, and the end of the road for the quirky Swedish manufacturer. Years of declining market share had taken their toll, as had an uneasy relationship with General Motors, Saab’s long-time owner. By the time production stopped at the Trollhättan factory, Saab was only selling the 9-3 (below) and 9-5, and although they looked sharp – and still don’t appear too dated today – the offering wasn’t diverse enough in a market starting to embrace SUVs in a big way.


Another sorry tale, as the brand from Osaka was actually the first from Japan to sell a car in the UK in 1965 – the Compagno saloon. Over the years it gained a reputation for some very individualistic designs, including the extraordinary, boxy Move and the tiny Copen roadster (below), as well as popular 4WD vehicles such as the Terios and the Fourtrak. But an unfavourable exchange rate saw imports stop in 2011, and Daihatsu subsequently quit Europe completely.


There’s a certain irony that Chevrolet’s badge is probably more familiar than ever in the UK, thanks to its sponsorship deal with Manchester United. But its cars were pulled from the UK in 2015 due to what owner General Motors described as the company’s “unacceptable financial performance” in Europe. Despite boasting one of US motoring’s most distinctive names, the Chevy models sold in the UK, such as the Captiva (below), were rebadged Korean Daewoos, which limited their appeal. The fact mechanically similar but superior Vauxhalls were available didn’t help either.


Remember Perodua? You’re forgiven if you don’t. The budget Malaysian manufacturer arrived in the UK in 1997 and stopped importing in 2014 due to low sales. It made a bit of an impact when it arrived with the launch of the tiny Nippa - a rebadged Daihatsu – that was touted as Britain’s cheapest car with a remarkable sub-£5k price, if not a remarkable drive. Subsequent models the Kenari, Kelisa and Myvi (below) barely registered on the radar of UK drivers.


The C in FCA – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles – has always been a more prominent player in its native USA than Europe and it was little surprise when bosses announced they were pulling the plug in 2017 to redirect resources on FCA brands with greater potential in Europe, such as Jeep. Arguably Chrysler’s two greatest successes here over the years were the Voyager, one of the first MPVs, and the 300C (below), which found favour with some who considered they were getting Bentley-like looks on the cheap.


Another US FCA brand that failed to go the distance in Britain was Dodge, which was pulled in 2010. Disappointing sales were blamed, with the Journey MPV, Caliber compact hatch and Nitro SUV (below) all struggling to make much headway. While Dodge’s departure was lamented by few, it was responsible for one iconic car during its time here, the SRT-10, or Viper as it was more commonly known. One of the classic US muscle cars, the V10 monster (pictured top) was a rare but distinctive sight.


Just as Perodua failed to make much of an impression so did fellow Malaysian budget brand Proton, although sales were initially encouraging when it first started importing cars in 1989. But as the company rolled out a string of undistinguished models, including the Satria, GEN-2 and Jumbuck pick-up, cheap prices were the only saving grace and buyers lost interest, leading to its withdrawal in 2014. Perhaps best remembered for a three-year tilt at the British Touring Car Championship in the Impian (below) between 2002 and 2004.


In theory, Infiniti should have been a success in Britain. A premium market player when sales were soaring, and with the bonus of cars being built here, the right ingredients were in place. But Nissan’s upmarket arm lacked any discernible identity or reason to buy, and suffered from a product range that was average at best. The Sunderland-built Q30 and QX30 (below) were the big hopes but didn’t convince, and few were shocked when the luxury brand confirmed business was no longer viable in Britain in 2019.


Oversized and over here was the general sentiment when the big, brash US SUV brand barged its way into the UK in the mid-Noughties. And for a while the massive H2 (below) and smaller H3 became cult cars with those who, frankly, had more money than sense (footballers chiefly). But Hummer’s star burned brightly for only a brief period and the brand was discontinued in 2009 as part of parent company General Motors’ bankruptcy.

Graham Hope

23 Sep 2020