Car production rose 8.5% in 2016 to 1.7m units – the highest since 1999; Nissan's Qashqai and the Range Rover Sport among top exports
Steve Cropley Autocar
26 January 2017

Car manufacturing in the UK set a 17-year record in 2016, and despite some industry uncertainty over Brexit, output is being tipped to keep rising and to reach an all-time high before 2020, according to the car industry mouthpiece, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Revealing the full year's figures, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said car production from 15 UK car manufacturers rose 8.5% to 1,722,698 units, the highest total since 1999. He described the industry as "in rude health" and predicted that the all-time record of 1.92 cars, set in 1972, would soon be beaten. Of the 2016 total, 1,354,216 cars (or about 80%) of production was exported, a total that beat last year's record, making car manufacture one of the country's largest and most dependable export earners. Over the past five years, average local content of locally made cars had risen from 36% to 41%, he revealed, another indicator of success.

Jaguar Land Rover and Nissan, who issued their 2016 figures in separate, similarly timed announcements, both played a major part in the UK's 2016 success. JLR held onto its position as the UK's biggest manufacturer, with an 8.0% production uplift to 544,401 cars, the rise driven by an updated line-up that included Jaguar's F-Pace SUV and the all-new Land Rover Discovery. NIssan's production at its mammoth Sunderland car-making complex was close behind at 507,430 units, and included new records for Qashqai and Leaf production.

Adding a note of caution, Mike Hawes pointed out that the bullish figures were the result of investment decisions "made three or four years ago", and not of a post-Brexit bounce as suggested in some media commentary. There were strong indications that car makers and suppliers were currently postponing non-critical investment decisions to see what happened, he said, which made clarity on future trading conditions vital.

Our Verdict

Jaguar XE

Jaguar's first attempt at a compact exec saloon is good - very good. But can the XE hold off the BMW 3 Series and Alfa Romeo Guilia to retain its crown?

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

"High-class engineering, advanced technology and a workforce committed to quality have helped turned our industry around," he said. "Today, the UK is one of the most productive places in Europe to make cars. We want trade deals, but they must be right and not rushed."

The SMMT figures showed that the UK's top-selling export model in 2016 was the Nissan Qashqai, with the Toyota Auris and Mini in second and third spots. Five of the top 10 were JLR models, the Range Rover Sport (5th), Range Rover Evoque (6th) and Land Rover Discovery Sport (7th). The Jaguar F-Pace and Jaguar XE filled 9th and 10th spots respectively.

Read more: Opinion: Success cannot obscure future challenges

Top 10 exported British cars:

1. Nissan Qashqai

2. Toyota Auris

3. Mini

4. Vauxhall Astra

5. Range Rover Sport

6. Range Rover Evoque

7. Land Rover Discovery Sport

8. Honda Civic

9. Jaguar F-Pace

10. Jaguar XE

Join the debate


26 January 2017
Since when is 5th considered 'among the top'? Your boundless bias does a disservice to Toyota, BMW, Vauxhall and their workers.

26 January 2017
I would expect bby value RR and RRS combined exc Evoque to be the top export by value 150.000 units mainly exported 85%

26 January 2017
Ski Kid wrote:

could be by value

Could well be, except there is not a single mention of value anywhere only volumes, so why highlight 1st and 5th position?

26 January 2017
5th is amongst the top 10 old boy.

26 January 2017
Great news as it is, some caution needs to be exercised. Some of the cars in the list are only made in the UK because it's their primary manufacturing base for some markets. For example, the UK, along with Poland, is GM's only European production facility for the Astra so of course a large number of cars will be exported, and probably all with Opel badges on. Same principle with the Auris, Civic and Qasqai, they're the only place in Europe where these cars are made. And car production is rising not because those cars are built in the UK, it's because people simply want those cars more than they did previously, i.e. it's about sales not where they're made so lets not get brainwashed with the SMMT gush. You'll probably see similar patterns at other regional production facilities for certain models. It's more important to focus on the domestic brands like Jaguar and Land Rover, if their production in increasing then it's because of higher demand for these cars and therefore a greater appetite abroad for British products.

26 January 2017
"....and predicted that the all-time record of 1.92 cars, set in 1972, would soon be beaten" now go back 9 months to the referendum campaign and you'll find SMMT predicting the opposite. Experts eh

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

27 January 2017
xxxx wrote:

"....and predicted that the all-time record of 1.92 cars, set in 1972, would soon be beaten" now go back 9 months to the referendum campaign and you'll find SMMT predicting the opposite. Experts eh

Spot-on. The remoaners are forever telling us that we believed lies from the leave campaign, but we could just as easily reply that we didn't believe the lies from the remain side.

I don't need to put my name here, it's on the left


26 January 2017
defender production ceased dec15 jan 16 and discovery ended september so would have been 40k more just because of these and F pace had 4 months missing etc.

26 January 2017
If JLR launch the Mid sized Range Rover and Jaguar E Pace alongside the new Discovery in the next 6 months then in 18 months time volumes might increase by another 200,000 units per Annum at JLR I'd guess.

Ignoring for a moment that some production will also go to Slovakia JLR also plan to build out the I-Pace, new Evoque, Defender range and may add another Disco. So I can easily see JLR hitting a million units a year by about the end of the decade.

Not bad for a company that the government refused financial help only a few years ago during the downturn..... maby the Government can consider that as part of their 'industrial strategy'

26 January 2017
The only strategy this government has with regard to manufacturing in this country is to turn this country into a holiday destination with little more than a service sector workforce on low wages, how else are they going to shoehorn this nation into a small part of a European Superstate other than to undermine our manufacturing capability to further our dependance and military integration into European defence force.

 Offence can only be taken not given- so give it back!


Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week