UK car production hits ten-year high

Strong exports to Europe offset drop in China as industry closes in on all-time record

Jaguar Land Rover car factory
Jaguar Land Rover factory in Solihull
(Image credit: Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Car manufacturing in Britain has hit a ten-year high, with a new record for the number of vehicles exported.

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) show that in 2015, the UK made 1,587,677 vehicles, the highest number since 2005. Of those, 1,227,881 were exported, meaning 77.3 per cent of vehicles manufactured in Britain go abroad.

Exports were up 2.7 per cent on 2014 levels but overall, 2015 saw fluctuating fortunes.

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Some markets poised a challenge, including China, where demand fell 37.5 per cent. However, this was offset by a boost for exports on the continent, with demand in Europe up 11.3 per cent. The EU now accounts for 57.5 per cent of all UK car exports.

The decline of the Chinese marketplace means the US is now the most popular destination for UK-made cars outside Europe, with demand rising 26.5 per cent.

UK sales were up, too, rising 8.1 per cent to a total of 359,796 units or one in seven of every new car registered.

The year also saw a change at the top of the automotive industry league table, with Jaguar Land Rover knocking Nissan from its previously lofty perch as the UK's biggest car manufacturer.

After £11 billion of investment since 2009, JLR made 489,293 vehicles in Britain, pipping Nissan by 13,000 units. Autocar says that it's the first time in the company's "combined 70-year history of its constituent companies" that they have been the UK's biggest car-maker, although they add that Nissan's Sunderland site remains the largest car-manufacturing plant in UK history.

It was also a strong year for Mini, which produced more than 200,000 vehicles from their plant in Oxford, marking a 12.4 per cent increase on 2014, and there were similar rises for Toyota and Vauxhall.

"Despite export challenges in some key markets such as Russia and China, foreign demand for British-built cars has been strong, reaching record export levels in the past year," said

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

But he also stressed the importance of global economic and political stability, particularly within the European Union.

"Europe is our biggest trading partner and the UK's membership of the European Union is vital for the automotive sector in order to secure future growth and jobs," he said.

Auto Express highlights how the UK automotive sector is not representative of the wider picture in UK manufacturing, which has seen growth slowing in recent months.

They also add that experts seem confident the UK will break its all-time car production record of 1.92 million units, from 1972, by the end of the decade.

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