UK car production boosted by record exports
Car production in the UK rose by 5.8% in 2011, industry figures show.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said manufacturing had ended the year with a 1.6% rise in December, producing a total of 1,343,810 vehicles in the year.
The SMMT said record exports had been the main driver of growth, with more than 80% of vehicles exported.
Although production rose last year, the SMMT said last week that new car sales in the UK had fallen 4.4% in 2011.
Engine production also rose by 4.9% to just over 2.5 million, despite a modest 1.3% fall in December.
"UK vehicle and engine production continues to lead the manufacturing recovery," said Paul Everitt, chief executive of the SMMT.
"It is essential that industry and government continue to work in partnership to maximise the opportunities at all levels of the UK supply chain and encourage more investment in research and development, skills and new plant and machinery."'Best plants'
The UK's numerous car manufacturers are enjoying tremendous success at the moment, with production levels rising in response to strong demand from markets overseas.
Exporting more cars helps the UK economy. It brings in foreign earnings, and a growing manufacturing sector creates new jobs.
But although the motor industry accounts for some 740,000 jobs in the UK, fewer than 150,000 workers are employed directly in manufacturing.
The remainder - almost 600,000 people - work in retail, supply and servicing.
In other words, with car sales in the UK falling, the vast majority of the industry's members are having a tough time.
Nissan's Sunderland plant produced the most cars last year, more than 480,000, which marked a rise of 13.5% on the year before.
Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port and Land Rover's Solihull and Halewood plants also saw big rises in production.
But Honda's Swindon plant, Jaguar's Castle Bromwich site and Mini's Oxford site all saw drops in output.
Business Minister Mark Prisk said the UK had out-performed the global car market.
"We have some of the best plants in the UK that are amongst the most productive in Europe," he said.
"Multi billion-pound investment and the creation of new jobs in the automotive sector demonstrates that the UK can successfully compete for business across the world."
The Unite union said the car production figures were "a glimmer of hope in gloomy times", but urged the government to help growth to continue in the industry.
"With the right investment, the right product and most importantly a skilled and dedicated workforce British manufacturing can be a success," said Tony Burke, Unite assistant general secretary.
"But overall UK manufacturing is not performing well because the government has no strategy to support the sector."