British car manufacturers just had their biggest month in 17 years as demand for diesel cars continued

Emma Haslett
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UK Car Sales Up 8.6 Per Cent Year on Year
Diesel vehicles made up almost half of those produced in March (Source: Getty)

British car manufacturers had their most productive month in March since the year 2000, exporting one car every 20 seconds.

Figures published today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed UK manufacturers produced 170,691 vehicles, the highest in 17 years and up 7.3 per cent on the same month in 2016.

Manufacturers continued to make the most of the weak pound, with exports pushing overall production so far this year to 471,695 units, compared with 438,390 by the end of March in 2016.

Demand for British-made cars rose 10.6 per cent during the month, with overseas buyers accounting for more than three quarters of output. However, demand from British buyers was less encouraging, falling 4.3 per cent.

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Despite increasing government opposition to diesel cars, 224,849 diesel-powered vehicles were made in the first quarter, making up almost half of overall output. The figure was a 6.7 per cent rise on last year.

In recent months diesel vehicles have been linked to increased air pollution in the capital and elsewhere: in January this year Westminster council became the first London borough to charge diesel drivers more to park their cars.

“UK car manufacturing is accelerating thanks to billions of pounds of investment committed over the past few years," said Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT.

"A large proportion are the latest low emission diesels and it’s essential for future growth and employment that we encourage these newer, cleaner diesels onto UK roads and avoid penalising consumers who choose diesel for its fuel efficiency and lower CO2 emissions.

"Much of our output goes to Europe and it’s vital we maintain free trade between the UK and EU or we risk destroying this success story.”

Read more: Is the British motorist falling out of love with diesel cars?

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