(Times) Car factories boom boosts the economy

(Times) UK production jumps to highest level in 17 years.

The Nissan plant in Sunderland. The carmaker said in October it would build two new models in the city, securing thousands of jobsGETTY IMAGES

British car production accelerated to its highest level in 17 years in November amid rising domestic and international demand.

Almost 170,000 vehicles were manufactured last month, according to the latest figures. In the year to November 30, 1.61 million cars were produced in the UK, a 9.6 per cent increase on the 1.47 million made over the same period last year.

The UK produced more cars in the first 11 months of this year than during any other year since 1999. The increase could provide a boost to the economy, with the automotive industry claiming to account for 4 per cent of GDP and 12 per cent of its total export of goods.

Car plants rolled out 169,247 vehicles in November — up 12.8 per cent year on year, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The news comes after a slip of 1 per cent in the year to October, as domestic demand fell by 10.9 per cent. Data from the trade body shows how UK demand bounced back in November, with production up 14 per cent from 29,600 cars to 33,745. Export manufacturing rose 12.5 per cent in the year, from 120,484 cars to 135,502.

Up to November 30, British factories had already produced almost 56,000 more cars than they made throughout the whole of 2015.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, warned that output would only continue to rise if the sector was able to maintain its competitiveness once Britain had left the European Union. “Made in Britain is a badge coveted by car buyers worldwide and these latest figures highlight not just that international appeal but the fact that the UK is a globally competitive place to make cars,” he said. “These results . . . will continue only if we can maintain the competitive trading conditions that have enabled the UK to become an automotive success story.”

Last week Mr Hawes met David Davis, secretary of state for exiting the European Union, emphasising that being part of the single market had “helped to make the UK automotive sector amongst the most competitive in the world and a critical part of the UK economy”. It was essential that the UK retained such benefits for the industry to maintain its success, he argued afterwards.

The government wrote to Nissan in the autumn pledging to take steps to protect it from the consequences of Brexit. The carmaker announced in October that it would build two new models in Sunderland, securing thousands of jobs at its plant in the city.

The industry estimates that some 78,000 workers are employed in the UK car manufacturing supply chain, with seven big manufacturers based in the country. The SMMT estimates that more than 2,000 companies involved in the chain contributed £4.3 billion in value added each year.

Exports continue to drive British car production despite a slight slip. Last month, 80.1 per cent of vehicles made in the UK were shipped abroad, down from 80.3 per cent in November 2015. In the first 11 months of this year, 78 per cent of cars produced in the UK were exported.