• 1.7 million cars built in the UK in 2016, an increase of 8.5% and the highest output for 17 years.
  • Exports at record levels for second consecutive year as more than 1.35 million cars shipped worldwide.
  • More than one in two cars exported to Europe, our single biggest trading partner, with demand up 7.5%.
  • Growth driven by multi billion pound investments in previous years – not post Brexit bounce.

UK car production achieved a 17-year high in 2016, according to the latest figures published today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). 1,722,698 vehicles rolled off production lines last year from some 15 manufacturers,1 an 8.5% uplift on total production in 2015 – and the highest output since 1999.2

More cars are now being exported from Britain than ever before, the result of investments made over recent years in world-class production facilities, cutting-edge design and technology and one of Europe’s most highly skilled and productive workforces. Ten brand new car models began production in the UK last year, nine of them from premium brands which has helped make the UK the second biggest producer of premium cars after Germany and the third biggest car producer in Europe.3 Total committed investment annoncements in the automotive sector in 2016 were approximately £1.66 billion across a number of companies. This figure is down from £2.5 billion in 2015.

Production growth was predominantly driven by overseas demand, with global appetite for British-built cars rising by 10.3% to an all-time high of 1,354,216 – a second consecutive annual record. Around eight out of every 10 cars manufactured in the UK is now exported, bound for one of 160 markets worldwide.

It was continuing economic recovery across Europe, however, that accounted for the bulk of the growth. Exports to the rest of the EU grew 7.5% to 758,680 and accounted for more than half of all UK car exports. Furthermore, Europe supplies the majority of components within UK-built vehicles, underlining the critical importance of tariff and barrier-free trade to future UK automotive production.

Growth was strong across a number of markets, notably the US – the UK’s biggest export destination after the EU – where demand rose by almost half (47.2%) meaning it now accounts for around 14.5% of all UK car exports. Notable uplifts were also seen in Turkey, Japan and Canada whilst China, third on the list of export markets, grew by a more modest 3.1% with 88,610 vehicles exported last year.

Domestic demand for UK built cars also grew last year, up 2.4% in the year, and the UK remains the second largest car market in Europe, again after Germany.4 One in seven new cars registered by UK buyers is now made in Britain, up from one in eight three years ago.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “The tremendous growth in UK production is testament to the global competitiveness of the UK automotive sector. High class engineering, advanced technology and a workforce committed to quality have helped turn around the industry, making the UK among the most productive places in Europe to make cars. Significant investment in new plants and products over the past few years has driven this growth, not a post-Brexit bounce. We want trade deals but they must be the right deals, not rushed deals. Failure to do so could damage UK automotive manufacturing beyond repair.”




UK engine manufacturing (data for December and full year 2016)

  • UK engine manufacturing grows 7.5% in 2016, to 2,545,608 units.
  • Domestic demand fuels production with 1,124,947 engines built for the home market – the largest volume on record.
  • 2016 ends on a high with 4.2% rise in December.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “It’s fantastic to see engine manufacturing thriving here in the UK, with multi-million pound investments in plant and machinery coming to fruition. A record 44.2% of production last year was for British-built cars, vans, trucks and buses, reflecting not just the diversity of our vehicle manufacturing sector but its success as production volumes continue to grow. Delivering the most competitive business conditions will enable the whole of UK Automotive to prosper.”



About SMMT and the UK automotive industry

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) is one of the largest and most influential trade associations in the UK. It supports the interests of the UK automotive industry at home and abroad, promoting a united position to government, stakeholders and the media.

The automotive industry is a vital part of the UK economy accounting for more than £71.6 billion turnover and £18.9 billion value added. With some 169,000 people employed directly in manufacturing and 814,000 across the wider automotive industry, it accounts for12.0% of total UK export of goods and invests £2.5 billion each year in automotive R&D. More than 30 manufacturers build in excess of 70 models of vehicle in the UK supported by more than 2,000 component providers and some of the world’s most skilled engineers.


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