UK car production hit a 17-year high in February thanks to bumper exports, says the SMMT

Rebecca Smith
Nissan announced it would build two more models at its Sunderland plant in October
Nissan announced it would build two more models at its Sunderland plant in October (Source: Getty)

UK car manufacturing recorded its biggest February in 17 years as over 150,000 cars were built last month, driven by bumper overseas demand.

Production rose eight per cent to 153,041 units according to the latest stats from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), as exports rose 13.4 per cent in February taking year-to-date output to 301,004 vehicles.

Read more: BMW's tight-lipped over UK plans saying it depends how Brexit is negotiated

The rise in exports managed to offset falling home production, which was down 7.4 per cent for the month and 5.6 per cent for the year so far.

The SMMT's chief executive used the figures to reinforce warnings made across the automotive industry in recent months.

Mike Hawes, the SMMT's chief executive, said:

Today’s figures illustrate the continuing global popularity of British-built vehicles and the export-led nature of the industry.

With eight out of every 10 cars we produce destined for international markets – and half of those for customers in the EU – we must avoid barriers to trade, whether tariff, customs or other regulatory obstacles, at all costs.

To do otherwise would damage our competitiveness and threaten the continued success of UK automotive manufacturing.

(Source: SMMT)

And Unite's general secretary Len McCluskey said these new figures demonstrate the automotive industry "is the jewel in the crown of British manufacturing which the Prime Minister needs to vigorously fight for in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations".

Last week Toyota invested £240m in the UK, but warned over Brexit tariffs.

Dr Johan van Zyl, the president and chief executive of Toyota Motor Europe, said: "Continued tariff-and-barrier free market access between the UK and Europe that is predictable and uncomplicated will be vital for future success".

The government has said it will pursue "a bold and ambitious trade agreement" with the European Union as a priority in Brexit negotiations, which will start once Theresa May triggers Article 50 on 29 March, but there has been uncertainty across the automotive sector as to how this will play out.

BMW boss Harald Krueger refused to be drawn on detail for the future of his firm in the UK earlier this week, saying "much will depend on how Brexit is ultimately negotiated".

There has been concern for the firm's Oxford plant which manufactures most Minis for the company, as BMW mulls building a new electric Mini elsewhere because of Brexit uncertainty.

BMW's first battery-powered version of the car is set to go on sale in 2019, with BMW saying a final decision would be taken this year.

Read more: Brexit would throw automotive industry into jeopardy, SMMT warns

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