Demand for British built cars has soared outside the EU amid a major global sales offensive by manufacturers.
As Aston Martin and McLaren revealed lucrative deals in China to boost the Prime Minister’s first trade visit to the country, industry figures today reveal how exports of luxury cars to the Far East and the US are propping up the market.
Some 1.7 million cars were built in the UK last year, a drop of 3 per cent on 2016 and the first decline in eight years.
The boost in oversea exports has been fuelled in part by Jaguar Land Rover’s decision to build its new Velar model in the West Midlands. This car has proved particularly popular in China
The main cause was a fall in domestic demand, which dropped almost 10 per cent, said the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
It blamed uncertainty generated by the Brexit vote and ‘confusion over government policy on diesel’.
But a surge in demand from countries outside the EU for luxury cars made in Britain has helped to prop up manufacturing.
Exports to Japan soared 25.4 per cent, jumped 19.7 per cent to China, 19.5 per cent to Canada and 7 per cent to the US.
This has been fuelled in part by Jaguar Land Rover’s decision to build its new Velar model in its plant in Solihull, in the West Midlands. This car has proved particularly popular in China.
Despite fears that the Brexit vote could cause Britain’s car industry to stall, the SMMT stressed that last year car makers churned out the second most cars since the turn of the century. It said car exports remained ‘historically high’ – dropping just 1.1 per cent from 2016.
Engine manufacturing in the UK also hit record levels last year, with 2.7 million produced – up almost 7 per cent on 2016
Engine manufacturing in the UK also hit record levels, with 2.7 million produced – up almost 7 per cent on 2016.
But exports to the EU – which takes more than half of exports – dropped by just over 5 per cent from 758,600 in 2016 to 719,573.
The SMMT’s chief executive Mike Hawes said it was ‘encouraging to see growth in many markets’ but added: ‘We urgently need clarity on the transitional arrangements for Brexit, arrangements which must retain all the current benefits else around 10 per cent of our exports could be threatened overnight.’
The lobby group has previously claimed Britain’s car industry faces a £4.5 billion bill if the UK leaves the EU without a trade deal, mostly from tariffs.
Today it also revealed that investment in the UK car industry fell more than a third last year to £1.1 billion, from £1.7 billion in 2016.
But this picked up dramatically from the first half of the year, when just £322 million was invested.
The mixed picture emerged as Aston Martin yesterday delivered a boost to Theresa May’s trade mission to China and her vision of a ‘global Britain’.
According to Sky News the car maker will announce deals in China worth more than £600 million that includes plans to open ten showrooms.
Supercar maker McLaren also set out plans to double sales in China this year. Bosses of both Aston Martin and McLaren were among those accompanying the PM to the Far East.
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