17 year high for new cars built in the UK

Published Date: 5th Feb 2017

Bar graph showing continued car production over the years

  • Record levels of Exports for the second year in a row, more than 1.35 million cars shipped abroad
  • More than one in every two cars is exported to Europe, the single biggest trade partner
  • A grand total of 1.7 million cars built in the UK throughout 2016, beating 2015 by 8.5% and the highest manufacturing output for 17 years
  • The overall growth is down to multi billion pound investments in the previous years

The total UK production of new cars achieved a 17 year record in2016, according to the very latest figures published by the SMMT.  1,722,698 new cars rolled down and off the production line last year from all the UK car manufacturers, up 8.5% on last year and the highest count since 1999.

A table depicting the car manufacturing numbers in 2016 versus 2015

More and more new cars are being exported every year from the UK to markets around the world. The result of huge investments made over the years into one of Europe’s highly skilled and productive workforces, state of the art production facilities, the very latest technology and cutting edge design.

Ten new brand new models began production in the UK last year, nine of them were from premium brands helping the UK become one of the biggest producers of premium cars and cement second place behind Germany and become third in overall production.

Total investments announced during 2016 for the automotive sector were approximately £1.66 billion, down from 2.5 billion in 2015.

A table depicting the car manufacturing numbers from manufacturers

The continued production growth is fuelled by overseas demand, with the overall figure for new UK built cars, rose by 10.3% to an all time record of 1,354,216 new cars. This is the second year in a row the record has been broken and around eight out of every ten cars built in the UK now goes straight to export, bound for the 160 global markets worldwide.

Where do all the new car exports go?

Europe also benefitted with continuing economic recovery across the EU that accounted for some of the growth. Exports to the European Union grew by 7.5% to 758,680 cars and made up for more than half of the total exports from the UK. The majority of components that make it to the production lines come from suppliers in Europe and this underlines how critical it would be to continue onwards with tariff and barrier free trade for the benefit of the UK and the EU.

table showing vehicle exports

After the EU, the United States is the next biggest export destination, making up 14.5% of total exports. Demand from the US has grown by 47.2% in 2016 when compared to the previous 2015 year figures.

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.