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UK - Nissan and Jaguar Land Rover performance highlighted by Professor Garel Rhys

Britain has established a new and sustainable car industry where new brands in new car making centres have transformed the sector from its 1970s heyday, an influential and wide-ranging report has found.

Global automotive expert, Prof Garel Rhys of Cardiff University, unveiled his new report, commissioned by MAKE it Sunderland, into the UK’s car production capabilities at a reception at the House of Lords on Wednesday 5 November. The venue was also the right setting for Nissan to announce production of its two millionth Qashqai car at its Sunderland plant.

In his report, Prof Rhys finds Nissan and Jaguar Landrover leading Britain’s drive to surpass the country’s 1972 car production record, turning the traditional industry model into one which is export-led, with access to many international markets providing risk–spreading economies of scale.

In addition, he finds the centre of operations of car making and components making has moved to new locations in the North East, East Midlands, West of England and Wales, with only a small amount of vehicle production left in the South East.

And the new opportunities for the UK supply chain are at least treble the previous estimates of £3bn, according to Prof Rhys, if UK suppliers can step-up to the plate.

“Britain has established a new type of sustainable motor industry. To survive the UK plants have become export led par excellence,” Prof Rhys, Professor of Motor Industry Economics and Director for Automotive Industry Research at Cardiff Business School, states in the newly-published report, commissioned by MAKE it Sunderland, ‘The Motor Industry in the UK: A Cool Shower of Reality’.

“Hence the UK has a new type of motor industry for a traditional car making country.  It has a very well spread out market which enjoys risk–spreading economies of scale.  No market is dominant including the home market which on average takes only 20% or so of output.  Consequently the present UK market share held by domestic plants is a sign of strength in this type of industry.

“In comparison to the record production year of 1972 it now consists of new players:  Nissan, Toyota, Honda, BMW, VW, and Paccar, Shanghai, Proton, Geely.  Daimler-Benz has a toe hold via Aston Martin.

“Only GM, Morgan and Dennis survive from 1972 in vehicle manufacture.  In addition the centre of operations of car making and components making has moved to new locations:  North East, East Midlands, West of England and Wales.  The South East hardly has a vehicle plant other than McLaren.”

The performances of both Nissan’s plant in Sunderland and Jaguar Land Rover’s manufacturing sites at Castle Bromwich and Solihull in the West Midlands, and Halewood, Liverpool, are singled out for praise in the report.

The ‘big two’ are continuing to lead British car production, which is a major part of both the UK’s manufacturing and export success stories, with around 80 per cent of the sector’s output sold overseas.

Nissan’s Sunderland plant, long hailed as the UK’s most productive car manufacturing facility, set a new record of making almost 511,000-plus vehicles in a year in 2012. The introduction of two new versions of previous models stopped the record being broken again in 2013 but the plant is now on course to possibly set yet another production record in 2014.

Prof Rhys said: “The number of cars made in the company's Sunderland plant since 2009 has been nothing short of remarkable in the annals of car making in the UK.”

car manufacture

Cllr Paul Watson, Leader of Sunderland City Council; Colin Lawther, Nissan’s Senior Vice President for Manufacturing in the UK,; Lord Derek Foster and Prof Garel Rhys, author of the newly-published report ‘The Motor Industry in the UK: A Cool Shower of Reality’ launched at the House of Lords.

The report also highlights recent record production by Jaguar Land Rover and the UK’s cluster of luxury car makers including Rolls-Royce and Bentley. These, along with Nissan, are fuelling the market’s growth, but the report found that other producers have yet to recover from the effects of the recession on demand and have been unable to lift their output accordingly.

UK car makers produced 1.53 million vehicles in 2013, with record production by Jaguar Land Rover, Bentley and Rolls-Royce.  The report said that it now looks more difficult for manufacturers to top the two million a year figure than it did in 2011, but the volume growth of Nissan and Jaguar Land Rover and the efforts of the luxury manufacturers will be instrumental in achieving this.

Between them, Nissan and Jaguar Land Rover produced 951,000 cars last year and the report predicts the figure could increase to 1.35 million by 2017.

However, in order to reach the two million figure, it is important that the UK does not lose any further plants and that Toyota, Honda, MINI, Vauxhall, Aston Martin and other manufacturers are able to claw back the production levels lost during the global economic downturn.

Colin Lawther, Nissan’s Senior Vice President for Manufacturing in the UK, said: “Nissan is very proud to be the UK’s biggest ever car factory, and to be the only plant to surpass 500,000 annual production.

“Since the start of production in 1986, North East England has become an international automotive centre with more than 26,000 people employed at Nissan and in the region’s supply chain.

“These achievements are down to the efforts of the management team and workforce at the plant, and strong support from our partners at Sunderland City Council and the UK Government.”

Cllr Paul Watson, Leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Nissan is a hugely important part of the Sunderland economy, and as Prof Rhys’ report shows, it is also playing a vital role in the UK’s economic recovery.

“We are immensely proud of the plant’s performance and the commitment and resilience of its staff. We are confident they will step up to the mark and will play a crucial role in helping the UK’s car industry to reach the two million cars a year output goal.”

Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a copy of the full report.

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