Exports up as UK car production hits decade high

Car production in the UK hit a 10-year high during 2015 with record numbers of vehicles exported, according to a report on Thursday from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Rolls Royce, UK

Almost 1.6 million cars were built last year, an increase of almost four per cent on 2014, with nearly 80 per cent of them destined for overseas markets – a 2.7 per cent rise on 2014.

The export success came despite drastic slumps in sales to Russia (down 69 per cent on the year) and China (down 37 per cent). These falls were more than offset by a buoyant European market, where sales of UK-built cars increased by 11 per cent during the year.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said, "Backing Britain's car industry has been a priority for this government and today we see the industry going from strength to strength.

"I am hugely encouraged that manufacturing is at a 10-year high and exports are at a record level. All this means jobs and the security of a pay packet for workers and their families.

"Our plans to rebalance the economy mean we have to continue to build on our great manufacturing strengths in the Midlands and the North of England, and work together to ensure that Britain continues to prosper as a global leader in car production."

SMMT figures showed the continent now accounts for 57.5 per cent of all UK car exports and Mike Hawes, the society's chief executives, said the figures showed how vital the UK's continued membership of the European Union was for the automotive sector.

But it was the United States which overtook China as the biggest export destination, with demand up by a quarter last year. Substantial growth was also reported in exports to Australia, South Korea, Turkey and Japan.

Mr Hawes said, "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.

"Achieving these hard fought for results is down to vital investment in the sector, world class engineering and a committed and skilled UK workforce – one of the most productive in the world.

"Continued growth in an intensely competitive global marketplace is far from guaranteed, however, and depends heavily on global economic conditions and political stability.

"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."

Meanwhile, Nissan has announced it is to invest £26.5 million in the UK to build a new generation of electric vehicle batteries in Sunderland, safeguarding 300 jobs.

Paul Willcox, chairman of Nissan Europe, said, "With 200,000 customers around the world already, the Nissan Leaf has transformed the performance and perception of electric vehicles (EV) and made Nissan the undisputed leader in EV technology. Today's announcement reflects Nissan's intention to remain EV leaders for many years to come, with our UK operations at the heart of our future innovations."

For more Re:locate news and features on business and enterprise, click here and for more on the UK, click here