RAC Cars News


UK car manufacturing reaches ten year high

By raccars Published

Image Source

Car manufacturing in the UK in 2015 saw a record 1.6 million units built. Who were the winners?

It's no secret that the automotive industry has been one of the biggest success stories in the UK's economic recovery. Recent figures confirm that this success is due not only to the retail sector but also to car manufacturing. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), not since 2005 have so many cars left UK production lines, and 77 per cent of those were destined to be exported.

While demand in the previously buoyant Russian and Chinese markets has dimmed, international sales to the US and continental Europe have increased. The US is now the biggest single nation importer of British-built cars. Meanwhile, sales of British-built cars in the domestic market increased by 8.1 per cent, reaching 359,796 unit sales. Industry forecasts suggest a continuing upwards trajectory is likely, and in time car manufacturing in the UK could reach the record levels seen in 1972, when 1.92 million units rolled off British production lines. Experts even claim this could happen as soon as 2020.

In 2015 eight brand new models built in UK factories were released to market.

International brands boost UK car manufacturing

The success of car manufacturing in the UK is due not only to traditional British names such as Jaguar Land Rover, Mini and Aston Martin but also to major foreign brands, particularly Japanese. Nissan, Toyota and Honda all have large manufacturing facilities in the UK which turn out some of their best-selling models including the Honda Civic and the Nissan Qashqai.

Nonetheless British brands are performing extremely well, with Jaguar Land Rover posting record sales figures for 2015 and, leapfrogging over Nissan to become the biggest manufacturer in the country. Nissan and Honda both saw a slight decline in 2015, bucking the overall trend, although sales were up at all the other major UK manufacturers. Mini is another UK success story, with new car sales up by 12.4 per cent in 2015, while Toyota saw an increase of 10.4 per cent and Vauxhall was up by 9.5 per cent.


This is the first time that Jaguar has reached such giddy heights in its 70 years of existence among its combined companies. Since buying JLR in 2009, when output was about 158,000 units annually, the firm's Indian parent company, Tata, has invested some £11 billion into the brand. JLR has also taken on thousands of new employees, doubling its workforce to 35,000. 2015 saw JLR post a production increase of 9 per cent or an extra 50,000 units year on year, to a total output of 489,923 units, beating long term leader Nissan by 13,334 cars. JLR is due to benefit from a further £3 billion of investment into UK facilities this year.


Nissan has also announced that it will be spending £26.5 million at its Sunderland plant to keep itself at the forefront of EV sales and technology. The Sunderland factory houses a battery manufacturing facility, inaugurated in 2013 at a cost of £420 million and producing batteries for Nissan's Leaf hatchback and e-NV200 van electric vehicles. With a staff of 300, the facility is the largest of its kind in Europe.

Meanwhile, overall manufacturing statistics for the UK are less promising, with output slowing towards the end of 2015. According to the SMMT, significant investment and a highly skilled workforce have helped the automotive industry to buck this trend. However SMMT chief Mike Hawes cautioned that continued success in the UK car manufacturing sector is dependent upon a growing European market and wider international demand. Issues surrounding the UK's membership of the European Union and a possible 'Brexit', or British exit could have a significant impact upon exports.

Looking to Buy?
Search for cars