SMMT figures indicate record exports for UK car makers

Britain’s car manufacturers exported more than 1.2 million vehicles in 2012, a rise of eight per cent compared with 2011.

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), total vehicle output increased eight per cent last year to 1.58 million units, the highest level since 2008.

Similarly, car output rose nine per cent in 2012 to 1.46 million units, ending the year with a six per cent rise in December.

Paul Everitt, chief executive at the SMMT, said: ‘2012 was a very good year for UK car production with record levels of exports and volumes at their highest since 2008.

‘The outlook for 2013 remains positive with demand in many faster-growing global markets offsetting the continued weakness in European economies.’

Commenting on the announcement, John Leech, UK head of automotive at KPMG, said: ‘News that UK car production set an all-time export record is clearly welcome and has essentially been driven by great performances at both Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) and Nissan.

‘JLR’s Range Rover is the vehicle that best meets the consumer aspirations of the fast-growing middle class in emerging markets, especially China, while Nissan’s Qashqai kick-started the fast-growing urban crossover vehicle segment.

‘The dramatic fall in car sales throughout the eurozone has undoubtedly impacted the UK car industry and has hit Honda and Ford’s Transit production already. There remains further risk that production will fall in the first quarter of 2013 as the eurozone remains under pressure.

‘However, the medium-term prospects of the UK car industry remain excellent and UK vehicle production could hit the two million mark in 2016.

‘This will be driven by new vehicle production plans in place at Nissan, JLR and other UK car plants that should be resilient to continuing eurozone weakness.’

In separate news, business information group Precise has analysed social media conversations to assess people’s car-buying intentions.

It claims the volume of English language social media conversations expressing a desire or intention to purchase a new car increased by 97 per cent year-on-year from February to March 2012 when compared to the same period in 2011, and by 71 per cent year-on-year from August to September 2012 when compared to the same period in 2011.

In a statement, James Withey, head of Brand Insight, Precise said: ‘As 2012 car sales suggest, the automotive industry is on the road to recovery, but still has a way to go before the market reaches the pre-recession level of 2.4 million units achieved in 2007.

‘The increase in social media discussions expressing the intention to buy a new car, whether they’re buoyed by new number plates or not, is a good indicator that further growth may be on the cards for 2013.’

Conversations indicating the intention to buy a car are said to have increased in the week after new number plates were launched on 1 March 2012.

There was a more sustained increase in discussions around the second number plate launch of the year on 1 September 2012 and these trends in conversations are reflected in car sales trends.

Figures from SMMT show that March 2012 was the busiest month of 2012 with 372,835 car sales. September was the second busiest with 359,612 new car registrations.