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Does Nissan sell more cars than Toyota in the UK?

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Chart showing Nissan and Toyota new vehicle registrations between 2015 and Q3, 2023. It shows how Toyota passed Nissan in 2019 and has been a larger seller since.

This question was posed after it emerged Nissan has been underpaying subcontractors. Someone claimed that Nissan sold the most cars of any Japanese manufacturer in the UK, which didn't sound right. It looked like the perfect opportunity for a quick fact-check.

Fact-checking is an essential part of my work, more so now we live in an era where "fake news" and outright lies are abundant.

Is Nissan the biggest Japanese manufacturer in the UK?

The Nissan plant in Sunderland is the largest car plant in the UK. For historical reasons connected to its relationship with Renault, most of its output ends up on UK roads.

But does it sell more cars than its big rival, Toyota?

This is how I answered that question...

Finding a reliable data source

Sales data is vague, and I couldn't be sure that relying on the manufacturer's data would be an apple-for-apples comparison.

Fortunately, the Government's "Driver Vehicle Licencing Authority" publishes quarterly statistics on new vehicle registrations. While this can include pre-registered vehicles (a trick some dealers use to bump up sales numbers or make demonstrators available), it seemed like a reasonable proxy for sales.

Crunching the numbers

I imported the DLVA's quarterly data for the past 10 years into Apple Numbers, my go-to spreadsheet. It was a big ask for my iPad Pro, as there are over 36,000 rows of data. 

Using filters to shrink the data, I set up SUM formulas to calculate the numbers of vehicles sold by Nissan and Toyota. I decided to exclude Lexus and Infinity - the premium brands - as Nissan no longer offers it in the UK. 

Choosing the graphic

A line chart was most suitable as I wanted to see how the two companies chased one another in the UK market. Bar, column and area charts got messy.

Screenshot of a spreadsheet in Apple Numbers with the Nissan vs Toyota new registration figures in a table on the top and a line chart mapping them beneath
Screenshot from Apple Numbers. Note how the data shows the latest numbers first, hence the chart is reversed

The data showed Nissan indeed held a significant lead through the mid 2010s. By the decade's end, Toyota passed Nissan and has stayed there ever since.

This data was plugged into my Keynote-based LinkedIn graphic generator. It's an Apple Keynote presentation with a suite of infographic templates that I can drop data in and turn out a suitable image in a few minutes. All I need to do is change the slide layout and the graphic style, and it automatically restyles the design. There's a bit of tweaking, and it's ready to go.

I chose a dark background version for LinkedIn as I thought it would stand out more in the feed. The light version below might be better suited to a print document.

Chart showing Nissan vs Toyota new vehicle registrations, with the background white to better suit a printed format

All done in under an hour

From the initial idea to the chart ready to share took less than 60 minutes.

Once I'd found a reliable data source, number crunching was fairly routine. It's easy to dive into Statista and its ilk without understanding what the numbers mean, which is why I prefer to go to their source.

Using preset graphic templates through Keynote also saved a lot of time on design. Once a design is settled on, using a tool like Keynote to generate future graphics becomes a relatively simple task. 

And the answer is...

No, Nissan doesn't sell more cars than Toyota in the UK.

My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction.

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