Brit car manufacturers about to handbrake turn into Europe's top three

A stonking 1.5 million cars were made in the UK last year. We could be about to shunt France out of its spot in Europe's top three.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 12 Feb 2014

British car manufacturing is speeding into the ranks of the big boys: figures published this morning by trade body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show production rose 3.1% in 2013 to 1.5 million. That’s the equivalent of one car rolling off the production line every 20 seconds.  

What’s even more encouraging is that it looks like the UK could become Europe’s third-biggest car manufacturer, taking up France’s place in the convoy behind Germany and Spain: the organisation reckons production could reach a record two million units a year by 2017 (1972 is currently the record year for car output – 1.92 million cars were made in the UK).

The UK’s biggest manufacturer was Nissan, which built more than 500,000 cars at its Sunderland plant, while Land Rover made 340,000. Toyota, Mini and Honda were also among the UK’s most prolific manufacturers, building 179,000, 174,000 and 138,000 respectively, while Jaguar made an elite 78,000 and Vauxhall built 73,000.

Those in the know tend to watch the export figure with interest. The UK’s car industry is notoriously reliant on the export market: according to the survey, last year 80% of the cars made here were sold abroad. It wasn’t all good news: exports to Europe have fallen by 20 percentage points since 2009 – although exports to the rest of the world have risen by a similar amount. Demand from China, Turkey and Australia has risen, but Russian demand for British cars has dropped. Presumably all those oligarchs have bought as many Rolls-Royces and Bentleys as they want to already...

Investment in the UK automotive sector topped £2.5bn, which Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said ‘[reinforces] industry analysts’ suggestions that the UK could break all-time car output records within the next four years’. Full speed ahead…

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