Currently reading: UK car production hits record high
Jaguar Land Rover eclipses Nissan to become UK's largest car manufacturer

More new cars were built in Britain last year than in any of the past 10 years, with exports also hitting an all-time record high, according to figures released by The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

In another step towards the all-time production record of 1.92 million cars, set in 1972 - which the SMMT has previously said it expects carmakers to eclipse in the next four years - total sales of UK-built cars rose 3.9% to 1,587,677 units. While the SMMT chief Mike Hawes is still predicting output will eclipse 1.92m cars by 2020, he cautioned that the growth hinged on the continued emergence of Europe from recession and stability and growth in other world markets.

"We are confident of breaking the record by 2020, but there are a lot of factors at play, from continued demand in the UK, through to our membership of the European Union being resolved and on to other geo-social factors that could impact on demand in large markets," said Hawes.

A record 1,227,881 units (or a 77.3%) were exported, despite waning sales in China (down 37.5%) and Russia (down 69.4%). These declines were easily offset by rising demand from EU countries - up 11.3% to 1,227,881 units or an impressive 57.5% of exports - and the US, which became the world’s biggest buyer of British-built cars outside Europe.

Home market demand for locally built cars was also strong, rising 8.1% to 359,796 units to correct a previous-year decline. According to the SMMT, eight all-new models were launched from UK car factories during 2015, and £1.76 billion of new investment was committed to the sector.

Welcoming the industry’s success, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes took the opportunity to underscore his support for the UK’s membership of the EU.

“Continued growth in an intensely competitive global marketplace is far from guaranteed,” he said, “and it 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.”

Welcoming the figures, Chancellor George Osborne also sounded a cautious note. “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,” he said. The importance of continuing UK automotive success is underlined by recent figures from the Office for National Statistics, which show UK average manufacturing output slowing in recent months."

Jaguar Land Rover beats Nissan to become UK's largest car maker

Jaguar Land Rover has beaten long-time leader Nissan to become the UK’s biggest car manufacturer, a position it has never previously held in the combined 70-year history of its constituent companies.

The SMMT figures show that JLR’s production rose 50,400 units (or 9%) to 489,923 units, beating Nissan (whose production declined 4.7% to 476,589) by 13,334 units. Nissan's Sunderland plant - which is 30 years old this year - still remains the largest car factory in UK manufacturing history, however.


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Jaguar's rise follows a period of £11 billion of investment since Tata took control of the company in 2009. At that time, annual production stood at 158,000 units. In that time the firm's workforce has also doubled, to 35,000 UK workers. The firm has also announced plans to invest more than £3 billion in UK facilities during the 2015/2016 fiscal year.

Meanwhile, Honda's UK car production declined marginally to 119,414 units, in the year that saw the launch new Honda CR-V, Honda Civic and Honda Jazz models, all built at its Swindon plant.

All other major UK carmakers expanded sales, however. Mini scored the biggest rise (up 12.4% to 201,207 units), while Vauxhall was up 9.5% to 85,241 units and Toyota rose by 10.4% to 190,161 units.

Read more: Nissan invests £26.5m in Sunderland battery plant

Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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thorpeman 21 January 2016

UK EU Exports

WTO rules ensure that exports to the EU will remain buoyant & the fluctuation in the current exchange rates show that or competitiveness can be improved against our competitors very easily. The UK manufactures Premium Cars which have less volatility with exchange rates as they aren't aimed at the penny pinching market.
fadyady 21 January 2016

Amazing JLR

In six years since 2009 the JLR shows some remarkable growth. Considering their entry level cars start at just under £30G it is an extraordinary achievement.
jensen_healey 21 January 2016


"Meanwhile, Honda's UK car production declined marginally to 119,414 units, in the year that saw the launch new CR-V, Civic and Jazz models, all built at its Swindon plant."

Jazz has now moved to Japan/China import, next CR-V will be coming from Canada....