News : UK car manufacture and exports at an all-time high

Land Rover Solihull (1)

Car manufacturing and export figures for 2012 have been released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) have been released, and it’s been a bumper year, with records broken for both benchmarks.

The SMMT has confirmed that UK exports exceeded 1.2 million units last year. It’s precisely the sort of figure that demonstrates European manufacturing is a tale of two halves: premium and mainstream. With premium booming, and mainstream struggling. As the UK’s main production area is in the premium sector (Jaguar Land Rover and MINI leading the way – as well as Bentley, Aston Martin and Rolls-Royce), It’s resulting in a boom time as British manufacturers expand into growing markets with desirable products,

But the rise of Nissan’s Washington production operation clearly shows that mainstream niche manufacture is also on the rise. When it moved from producing the Almera and Primera to focusing on the Qashqai crossover small MPV/hatchback, major growth followed. It is now by some margin the UK’s largest car manufacturer.

Overall, total vehicle manufacture grew by 8 per cent to 1.58 million in 2012, of which 1.46 millon were cars – representing a 9 per cent rise over 2011. That largely matched the rise in exports – 8 per cent over 2011.

Paul Everitt, SMMT Chief Executive commented, ‘2012 was a very good year for UK car production with record levels of exports and volumes at their highest since 2008. The outlook for 2013 remains positive with demand in many faster growing global markets offsetting the continued weakness in European economies.’


SMMT Cars Commercial Vehicles Total Vehicles Total Engines
Data. Dec-12 YTD-12 Dec-12 YTD-12 Dec-12 YTD-12 Dec-12 YTD-12
Total 101,740 1,464,906 6,851 112,039 108,591 1,576,945 150,204 2,495,371
% change 6.2% 9.0% -18.9% -6.8% 4.2% 7.7% -0.8% -0.3%
Export 84,986 1,212,031 3,550 63,733 88,536 1,275,764 96,933 1,554,208
% change 4.2% 7.8% -26.7% -8.1% 2.5% 6.8% -2.1% -11.6%
% of total 83.5% 82.7% 51.8% 56.9% 81.5% 80.9% 64.5% 62.3%
Home 16,754 252,875 3,301 48,306 20,055 301,181 53,271 941,163
% change 17.5% 15.4% -8.4% -4.9% 12.3% 11.6% 1.7% 26.2%
% of total 16.5% 17.3% 48.2% 43.1% 18.5% 19.1% 35.5% 37.7%

UK manufacturing 2012

[Source: Honest John]

Keith Adams


  1. Good news – more and more of it coming – I like good news – shame it’s not plastered all over the media like bad news (Honda) is. Guess this nugget will be hidden somewhere down the running order of the news tonight, and not mentioned ever again 🙁 The Empire IS striking back!

  2. Excellent news – Whereas there is bad news with Honda and Ford slimming the good news is outweighing it

    The UK seems to know where the market is and is leaving to the far east for the volume market.

    In the longer term I can see even more good news with possible additional inward investment as the UK has low corporation tax, scalability, good labour relations, good sea ports (good for parts and semi-finished like MG) and political stability – there is not a huge difference between any of the parties here.

    I have also read in a few places that ‘Made in England’ is the label to have and there is ‘reshoring’ happening here in some industries.

    My predictions / wish list:
    – Increased Ford engine production (possibly at the expense of Cologne engine)
    – More Chinese investment (possibly with Geely copying the MG model)
    – MG expanding and increasing local content
    – BMW increasing MINI capacity (ideally with a new factory to supplement Oxford)
    – Increased Jaguar production with a 3 series rival and a 4×4

    I just wish the BBC in particular could be positive about the UK and England in particular rather than thinking everyone lives in London and reads the Guardian

  3. And yet people still talk about the death of the British Motor industry and that we no longer make anything in this country. The UK motor industry should be shouting this from the roof tops. Absolutely remarkable that despite Longbridge, Dagenham and Luton closing we still build more and export far more cars now than we did during the so called golden era. Whats more, these are world class products that buyers are queuing up to pay a premium for, not shoddy rubbish thrown together by a recalcitrant workforce happier on a picket line than a production line.

  4. Agree with Paul – what a result! This and the accompanying story about the strength of SAIC shows the scale of opportunity there is for MG at Longbridge. They’re almost bound to get it right in the end, surely.

  5. These are only comparisons with 2008, not all time?

    However, it is good news, showing how to make vehicles that customers want and are prepared to pay for with good engineering and marketing. I hope that Honda and Toyota, both somewhat under capacity, are taking note and addressing their UK model strategy.

    Also, let’s not forget the CV/bus/off highway sectors – in the past often neglected and important to a vibrant motor industry.

  6. @5,Have the japenese lost thier way in europe? the Auris is a non starter over here as is the Avensis just boring cars,its a shame Honda are on thier uppers at the moment because i have a lot of time for thier engineering past and present.Its a crying shame that our truck and bus industry has been decimated by the likes of Paccar,MAN and pegasso and a whole string of events in between.

  7. Quote ‘Also, let’s not forget the CV/bus/off highway sectors – in the past often neglected and important to a vibrant motor industry.’

    Good point made here…. any figures available for firms such as JCB, CNH (New Holland) and DAF???

  8. @6
    I don’t think you can blame Paccar, the Leyland plant is stil churning out LF trucks at a decent rate, and Leyland’s decline in the bus market has been offset by the rise od ADL and Wrights.

  9. Main problem still outstanding is the decline of the UK supply chain, meaning a helluva lot of the components are imported. Bentley here in Crewe import their bodyshells from Germany !

  10. Great news. Theres plently of room fore more….Triumph (BMW) Rover(Land Rover) and yes a small cat(Jaguar) would be nice too! alex

  11. …with a little help from our friends…thanks TATA 🙂 I don’t think JLR would where they are now with Ratan Tata.

    I think it’s about time the Nissan Squashedquiche was given its own little section in “The Cars” part of the site. It’s UK designed and built after all. Say what you like about it, but its been a big success for us…

  12. Those figures also show how many cars we buy in the UK that are made abroad (mostly Germany I expect). About, what 2,000,000 sold every year and about 1.75 mil are imported!

  13. @13 – Not sure about that. Most of the products JLR are now benefitting from – XF, new XJ, Evoque and F Type where all planned during the Ford era. Tata got lucky – but do seem to realise what they have got and are continuing to invest.

  14. @2 – BMW increasing MINI capacity with a new factory – Thats a thought thats occured to me as well. I think theres an old car factory near Birmingham the current owners would be glad to off load!

  15. I’m very happy to be driving a product that was built at Halewood only 18 months ago, with a huge local input, even including locally souced sheet steel and an engine from Dagenham!

    If I’m fortunate enough to be able to afford another in 18 months, then that’s exactly what I’ll go back and do.

  16. @17
    With BMW using the Nedcar factory to expand MINI production in the short to medium term, I can’t see any major expansion in the UK, in terms of final assembly, though of course the extra production volumes will be hood news for the Swindon pressings plant and Hams Hall

  17. As for the 3-Series rival from Jag (XE?)… *That* is a car that’ll put the big cat on the map again. XF and XJ can only stretch so far but there is a need for a ‘bread-and-butter’ car.

    I wouldn’t be so surprised to see a hatchback 1-Series rival (Jag XD?) too to bring in the sales from the mainstream market, aspiring for something a bit more than a Mondeo or a Golf.. Speaking of this sector, I wouldn’t be so surprised to see some action from TATA Motors themselves in the next 10-15 years.

  18. BL or whoever back then, were very good at making cars for no profit, or even at a loss (Mini !) There’s no point in filling market gaps if you don’t make money on them, or if they don’t have a beneficial effect of the rest of the company.

  19. @20
    Such cars will be the end of the Jaguar name, in much the same way as the 200 was the end of rover. If JLR do build such a re it should be as a new Rover. What the UK make of a relaunced rover is larglely irrelevant, it’s the rest of the world that matters as most will be exported, and out side the influence of the moronic british press rover actually had a good name, in fact it still does, and in the biggest car market of them all (USA) it has a great name, because they call lanrodorvers ‘rovers’

  20. I thought the X-Type (great car, I had a 2.0D and a 2.2D estate) was intended to be a 3-series rival, but wasn’t regarded as a success? How will a new small Jag be more competitive with BMW?

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