Honda had its most successful year, thanks to its new Civic, with production up 22.4% to 164,160 units. Worst hit was Vauxhall, whose production was down 22% to 92,164 cars. Toyota also dropped 20% to 144,077 units built.
The top ten cars sold worldwide and built in Britain were, in descending order, the Nissan Qashqai, Mini hatchback, Honda Civic, Toyota Auris, Vauxhall Astra, Nissan Juke, Range Rover Sport, Jaguar F-Pace, Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport.
Of the overall 1.67m vehicles, 1.34m were sold outside the UK. Car exports were down 1.1%, only a slight decline when compared to cars built for the UK market, which dropped 9.8%.
This reflects the decline in UK car sales, which fell 5.7% in 2017, a result also blamed on falling consumer confidence, concerns over diesel and worsening exchange rates.
Reiterating the SMMT’s previous stance on Brexit, Hawes said: “The EU remains our biggest partner for exports. The EU market is getting back to pre-recession levels. We must maintain the relationship with not only Europe, but all countries.
“Businesses need clarity, not just on the Brexit transition but also the long-term arrangements. The single market must continue, and there must be no tariffs. Anything else would undermine our competitiveness.”
Hawes expects UK car production for 2018 to stay at a similar level to last year, his tone notably different to this time last year when he described the industry as being “in rude health” and predicted that the all-time record of 1.92m British-built cars, set in 1972, would soon be beaten.
When asked today about hitting that record, Hawes commented: “it’s hard to foresee us reaching that figure while we have this period of uncertainty”.
JLR CEO Ralf Speth expressed caution on the firm's prospects for 2018: “The car industry is facing a number of challenges that are undoubtedly impacting consumer confidence, particularly in the UK. Jaguar Land Rover must become as lean and fit as possible so that we can continue to invest in our autonomous, connected and electrified future," he said.
Meanwhile, Honda expects to maintain 2017 levels for production this year.
Hawes also predicted that shortly before leaving the EU, there would “likely be a pull-forward” in terms of car production, followed by a decline directly after Britain’s exit.
Ford’s UK boss Andy Barratt added: “The car market involves global players. So global capital goes to safe havens: the places where you will get the greatest returns. The free trade agreement is key, plus a stable currency, stable regulations."
The SMMT also confirmed that UK automotive investment fell by 33.7% last year to £1.1bn, compared to £1.66bn in 2016. Investments in 2017 included McLaren’s Sheffield facility and Toyota’s Burnaston plant.
Engine production bucks trend with 6.9% rise
Despite the downturn in investment and car production, engine production bucked the trend, hitting record levels. Output was up 6.9% to more than 2.7m units in 2017, with 54.7% of these destined for overseas sale.