Jaguar Land Rover has kept a firm grip on its position as the UK’s number one vehicle manufacturer, producing nearly one in three of all the cars made in Britain last year. The West Midlands-based company, with its engine plant in Wolverhampton, saw 544,401 cars roll off the production lines at its three UK car factories in 2016 – up 8% on the previous year.
JLR’s growth has been driven by demand for its top-selling Jaguar F-Pace and the new Land Rover Discovery. 80% of its UK-made cars are exported to 136 countries around the world.
Volkswagen has overtaken Toyota to become the world’s best-selling carmaker, the first time the German company has held the position. Japan’s Toyota, which had topped sales for the past four years, sold 10.175 million vehicles globally in 2016. That fell short of the 10.31 million sales which VW reported.
Volkswagen, which makes the Audi, Porsche and Skoda brands, saw a 3.8% increase in sales buoyed by demand in China. It has been making inroads in other markets too. In Sweden for example, the Volkswagen Golf was the most popular new car in 2016 – the first time in more than half a century that a Volvo hadn’t topped the country’s sales.
Toyota’s sales grew by 0.2% – though it appears to have suffered from a slowdown in the US car industry.
Sales of new commercial vehicles in the EU increased by 10.43% year-on-year in December 2016.
In total, new commercial vehicle sales in Europe reached 211,941 units over the month, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association. This is the second consecutive month-on-month increase and overall growth was sustained across ail vehicle types and in most major markets.
Demand for new commercial vehicles jumped by 97.01% year-on-year to 31,403 units In Italy, in Spain demand was up by 13.19% to 18,858 units, Germany it increased by 3.4 2% to 31 ,451 units and in France sales were up 2.89% to 45,707 units.
For the whole of 2016, new commercial vehicle registrations across the EU were up by 11.60% year-on-year to 2.32 million units.
Investment in the UK’s automotive industry fell in 2016 after several years of strong growth, according to the head of the Industry’s trade body. Some investment decisions are also on hold until there is clarity about the UK’s post-Brexit trading arrangements.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, was giving evidence to the Treasury Committee. He told MPs that investment appears to be falling back. “We are putting together the data as best we can” he said. “But I sense certainly that the amount invested over the last 12 months will not be as high as the preceding one, two, three years.” He said that despite the decision taken by Nissan in the autumn to build two new models at its Sunderland plant. Other companies appeared to be holding off key decisions.
Investment in research and development hit £2.5bn in 2015. That was up 8.7% on the £2.3bn invested the year before, according to the SMMT’s 2016 Automotive Sustainability Report.
US President Donald Trump has told the heads of the big three US car giants to build more vehicles in America. During a White House meeting with the companies’ chief executives he promised to make investment more attractive through cuts in regulations and taxes.
Mr Trump met General Motors’ Mary Barra, Ford’s Mark Fields, and Fiat Chrysler’s Sergio Marchionne.
GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler as well as foreign carmakers, have announced a string of new US jobs and investments in recent weeks. Toyota said it would add 400 jobs and Invest $600m in an Indiana plant, aiming to boost production there by 10%. The Japanese company has already said it plans to invest $10bn in the US over the next five years.
The number of cars made in the UK reached a 17-year high last year, according to the industry’s trade body.
About 1.7 million cars rolled off production lines in 2016, a rise of 8.5% on the year before. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) added that exports rose 10.3% to 1.35 million vehicles, a record for the second consecutive year.
Mr Hawes said that car production was on course to reach an all-time high before 2020. But the SMMT’s statement sounded a note of caution after revealing that investment by the industry fell to £1.66bn last year, compared with about £2.5bn in recent years. Mr Hawes said: “Significant investment in new plants and products over the past few years has driven this growth, not a post-Brexit bounce.”
UK car exports to EU countries increased by 7.5% to 758,680 last year, accounting for half of all exports, the SMMT said. There was also a big rise in car exports to the US, where demand jumped by almost half, accounting for around 14% of all UK car exports.
Increases were also seen in Turkey, Japan and Canada, with a modest 3% rise in China, the SMMT reported. The UK has 15 car plants, directly employing 169,000 workers and 814,000 across the sector.
Jaguar Land Rover increased production by 11% last year to 544,000, Nissan’s rose by 6.5% to 507,000, the Mini by 4.9% to 210,000, and Honda by 12% to 134,000. Production of Toyota models fell by 5% to 180,000.
The top 10 British best-sellers worldwide last year were the Nissan Qashqai, Toyota Auris, Mini, Vauxhall Astra, Range Rover Sport and Evoque, Land Rover Discovery Sport, Honda Civic, Jaguar F-Pace and Jaguar XE.