as Old as the Industry, as modern as the Hour
Riley's Best year for sales would appear to be 1936, when the 12/4 was booming and the Nine was enjoying an 'Indian Summer' in sales. The larger 15/6 model also had it's best sales year, giving a total of just over 5100 cars sold. This is estimated to have been about 2% of the total UK market for the year, but what else was available for Riley's target market?
To put in perspective the Riley sales, in the late 1930s (according to Wikipedia), the top Five producers were Morris with around 27% of the market, Austin (24%), Ford (15%), Standard (13%) and Rootes (Hillman, Humber and Sunbeam: 11%), Vauxhall were 6th with 10%. With the exception of Sunbeam, none of these producers really rivalled Riley throughout their lifetime.
The companies that did rival Riley were just as small, if not smaller producers, some selling just a few hundred cars a year. In the 1930s the larger producers included:
  • Frazer Nash - selling less than 100 cars most years
  • Jaguar (SS) - Towards the end of the 1930s
  • Lagonda - mostly larger cars, but a few small Rapiers built
  • Lea Francis - much lower volumes
  • MG - the saloons were never built in quantities to threaten Riley
  • Rover - generally rivalling the upper end of the Riley range, and with less sporting characteristics
  • Triumph - One of the merger targets in 1938, but Triumph went bust themselves in 1939
    There were, of course, also some continental competitors, such as Alfa Romeo and BMW, but in the 1930s foreign cars were very rare in any car producing country.

    All in all, Riley had carved out a very comfortable little niche for themselves, but as they tried to expand, they only caused themselves more problems, and ended up with too many models, many selling less year on year, and all too quickly the money ran out.

    Riley RM - The Rivals

    A selection of other 1 - 2 litre saloon cars available during the time the RMs were on sale.

    Armstrong Siddeley

    1991 / 2309cc, 6cyl, OHV
    2 door DHC & 4 door Saloon
    12,500 sold

    Sunbeam Talbot

    1944 / 2267cc, 4cyl, OHV
    2 door DHC & 4 door saloon
    30,000 sold

    Triumph Renown

    1776 / 2088cc 4cyl, OHV
    4 door Saloon
    15,300 sold

    Alvis TA14 - TC21

    1892cc, 4cyl & 2993cc, 6 cyl, OHV
    2 door DHC & 4 door Saloon
    5,200 sold

    Lea Francis

    1767 / 2496cc 4cyl OHV
    2 door DHC & 4 door saloon
    3,500 sold

    Riley RM

    1496 / 2443cc, 4cyl, OHV
    2 door DHC & 4 door saloon
    23,000 sold

    Other options
    The Jaguars of the era were primarily larger, 6 cylinder cars, whilst Allards also had V8 engines. Lagondas too had moved upmarket, whilst the MG saloons were smaller engined and bodied. Other marques, such as Wolesley, Humber, and Lanchester carried the luxury but not the sporting nature of Riley, so were hardly in the same league.