This increase shows the sector “continues to lead the manufacturing recovery,” said the SMMT’s Paul Everitt.
However, output of commercial vehicles declined and engine production growth tailed off in December.
Car manufacturing rose 5.8 per cent to 1.344m in 2011, with a strong 1.6 per cent rise last month topping off the year.
Exports increased by 17 per cent in the year, hitting 1.125m and representing 83.7 per cent of total output.
The proportion exported hit 85.1 per cent in December, with 60 per cent of those exports going to European countries led by Germany, Italy and Russia.
Nissan’s UK output rose by 13.5 per cent in the year, cementing its leadership position with 480,485 cars made.
Honda’s output fell the most, dropping 30 per cent from 139,287 in 2010 to 97,459 last year.
Commercial vehicle output fell 1.4 per cent to 121,312 last year, while exports fell 18.9 per cent.
Leyland Trucks experienced the greatest rise in output, which rose 56.8 per cent, while Renault suffered falls of the same proportion.
Engine production rose 4.9 per cent to 2.504m in 2011, though output fell 1.3 per cent in December.