UK car production output lowest since 2010

Car production in the UK dropped for the third straight year in 2019 to fall to the lowest output since 2010, according to newly released figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The 1.3 million production figure was a 14.2% drop on 2018 and more than 400,000 units down on the highest figure in modern times of 1.72m units in 2016. SMMT boss Mike Hawes said that the latest fall was down to weakened business and consumer confidence in the UK, the continued drop in demand for diesel models across Europe, of which the UK is a large producer, and a drop in demand in key export markets including China, Japan and the US.

Now the prospect of remaining within a customs union with the EU has been removed, Hawes has also called on the government to ensure a free trade agreement with the European Union that includes tariff-free and quota-free trade between the UK and EU for the automotive industry in a trading deal that the government has said it will negotiate before the UK/EU’s post-Brexit transition deal on current terms expires at the end of 2020. 

The SMMT projects that there will be a further fall in UK car production in 2020, dropping to 1.27m units, despite there being an expected positive impact from the likes of the Sunderland-built all-new Nissan Juke and the first full-year production of the Toyota Corolla in Derbyshire.

An all-new Nissan Qashqai, Britain’s most exported new car, will have its first full year in production in 2021, which should help compensate for some of the lost production when Honda’s Swindon plant closes at the same time.

Key numbers

Top 5 most exported UK cars

Nissan Qashqai


Toyota Corolla

Honda Civic

Range Rover Sport

UK car manufacturing by year

1972: 1.92m (record high)

2009: 1m

2016: 1.72m

2017: 1.67m

2018: 1.52m

2019: 1.3m

UK car manufacturer production by car maker (2019)

Jaguar Land Rover: 385,197 units (-14.3%)

Nissan: 346,535 (-21.6%)

Mini: 221,928 (-5.2%)

Toyota: 148,106 (+14.7%)

Honda: 108,876 (-32.2%)

Vauxhall: 61,737 (-20.3%)

Other: 30,756 (+16.2%)

Top 5 export markets for UK

EU (54.8% of all exports)

USA (18.9%)

China (5.3%)

Japan (3.2%)

Canada (2.2%)