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.