This summer, many of the world’s biggest footballing nations will go head-to-head to decide which is the best on the planet in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. So which country is the greatest car manufacturer?
It’s frequently billed as the greatest show on earth and that’s probably not wrong, but what if – for the sake of this admittedly tenuous article – the tournament winner was decided by the quality of a nation’s car brands.
Part of us likes the idea of a German starting 11 featuring an Audi R8, Mercedes G-Class and BMW 5 Series kicking off with an Italian side that included the Fiat 500, Alfa Romeo MiTo and Lamborghini Urus. So which countries are the heavyweights and which would be San Marino?
Uruguay usually do alright for themselves, and although they haven’t managed to reprise their champions successes from 1930 and 1950, they did come fourth in South Africa during 2010, losing 2-3 to Germany in the bronze final. Teams such as Chile and Nigeria can only dream of that kind of success, rarely making it out of the group stages.
While levels of success have varied between Uruguay and Chile and Nigeria, one thing all three nations have in common is that their current vehicle production tally is zero. Similarly, Iceland – a team that shocked the world by embarrassing England out of 2016’s Euros – has no car manufacturing industry – mainly because there are more people in Bristol than on the entire island.
How many Argentinian car brands can you name? How about Polish? South African? Belgian? Despite not having any badges to call their own, these countries do still pump out a fair few vehicles every year. Poland produced 689,729 units in 2017 alone – the highest sub-million total of that year – and South Africa followed not far behind (589,951). Way down the pecking order though, you’ll find some great footballing nations such as Euro 2016 champions Portugal with an unremarkable 175,544 units, followed by the Netherlands (167,280).
The dark horses
Italy has given the world some truly iconic car brands – Ferrari, Lamborghini, Fiat – yet its production figures don’t reflect that glowing resume, having only cracked the million mark in the last three years. To provide some context, Spain hit seven-figures in 1980.
The Czech Republic may only have Skoda to shout about, but it’s an increasingly strong and likeable brand (and the country could creep past the 1.5 million mark in 2018 – something Iran and host country Russia managed last year).
Don’t forget about Sweden either with Volvo and the newly separated Polestar performance brand.
Spain – who were crowned World Cup champions in 2010 – only really have SEAT to their name, but again, a solid brand with some very likeable models in its squad (Leon, Ibiza, Ateca).
Only four countries produced more than five million vehicles in 2017: China, the US, Japan and Germany. You may not be able to name many Chinese car brands, but close to 30 million were sold in 2017 – more than triple that of nearby Japan (29,015,434 to 9,693,746).
But would we rather drive an MG 6 over a Mazda? Or a Dongfeng-built Nissan Tiida over a Toyota Prius? No. Chinese car manufacturers knock it out of the park in terms of volume, but these are not the kinds of cars that many westerners would choose to drive.
Germany is a production powerhouse and with the big three premium car brands – Mercedes, BMW, Audi – not to mention, VW and Bentley, they’d have to be one of the favourites. The US has its own star players too, with Ford (okay, ‘nuff said) and General Motors (GM), which boasts some very popular domestic names like GMC, Chevrolet and Cadillac.
Where would England come in all this?
Well, the only remaining independent British motor manufacturer is…Morgan. Every other supposedly English or British car maker is owned by a company based in another country such as Jaguar and Land Rover (Tata, India), Bentley (built in Crewe, owned by VW), Aston Martin (a subsidiary of Ford), Mini and Rolls Royce (part of the BMW Group). Even Vauxhall is now owned by Groupe PSA.
Yep, even in the Car World Cup, England wouldn’t make it past the groups.
But are we being pessimistic? Where do you think England would end up in the car world cup? Let us know down in the comments.