11 February 2020

UK Production Woes

Nissan Sunderland, UK

It's easy to look at statistics and make some bold claim based on insufficient thought or baseless prejudice. In fact, some of the things I read about the car industry is nothing but fake news. Even as a member of the public, a reasonable knowledge of the car industry exposes the lack of intellectual integrity of some.

So what is happening in the UK car industry regarding production? The recent overall scenario was growth until 2016, then accelerating decline since. We can see that in the charts below.

Passenger Car

Yr Volume %

2013 1,509,800 4%

2014 1,528,100 1%

2015 1,587,700 4%

2016 1,722,700 9%

2017 1,671,200 -3%

2018 1,519,400 -9%

2019 1,303,100 -14%


Yr Volume %

2013 88,100 -21%

2014 70,900 -20%

2015 94,500 33%

2016 93,900 -1%

2017 78,200 -17%

2018 84,900 9%

2019 78,300 -8%


Yr Volume %

2013 1,597,900 1%

2014 1,599,000 0%

2015 1,682,200 5%

2016 1,816,600 8%

2017 1,749,400 -4%

2018 1,604,300 -8%

2019 1,381,400 -14%

Reasons for passenger car reduction:

1) World vehicle sales have peaked and are now in decline.

2) Some unique issues with the UK industry. 

They include Nissan pulling back on sales volume in the UK and Europe. JLR moving production offshore and LR facing diesel pressure. Toyota not replacing the Avensis. Honda basically giving up on Europe and winding down its oepration. Opel/Vauxhall being reshaped for a profitable future with lower volume. 

3) UK public ignorance and apathy.

Many in the UK wouldn't know what the local car industry is, which models are even made there. Others couldn't care less whether it thrives or survives at all. 

Those factors have sent the number of cars made into a negative slide. I have kept political reasons out because while they may impact in the future, for now it's had minimal impact. Such talk too often reflects political posturing and scare tactics designed to try and sway both public opinion and political decisions. 

The future:

Jobs are being shed in the industry and it is expected that this will continue. Lower car demand, the changing use of personal transport and new directions for what the car will be are all having an effect. The figures above reflect the future of the industry, although the UK seems to be leading the way. Jolly decent of them.


  1. I am bit surprised you leave out the obvious, and that is Brexit. The car industry had a clear position on that and we can see that exact pattern. I also wonder how that production stat might look in Germany, where the production is continuously expanded to eastern countries.

    I think there is a lot of assumption about consumer behavior and I wonder what is the basis for that. The French people are quite known for the ignorance to their cars (in fact Minis are quite popular e.g. in Paris), yet the companies do not struggle that much.
    Volvo has a huge market share because that want to sell cars at home, for the right price. Look at the starting price of the XC60 in Sweden...

  2. I left out Brexit as it is yet to have any impact of note. Factors such as banning fossil fueled cars will affect the industry hugely, but that is still to come. Cars built in the UK struggle to make up 10% of domestic sales. No car making nation of any note has such a poor local content penetration. Ignorance and apathy at its best.

    1. I wonder if there is more to that. I certainly would not say that the French are more nationalst when it comes to cars. I don't know the situation on the far side, but Jaguar usually failed to make a dent in the premium segments anywhere in Europe. After a while you cant expect the people of UK to sustain a luxury car company. Saab was kipped over by the Swedish trade unions (not like it would have survived much longer), burning wast sums of European (and hence Swedish giovt guaranteed) loans.

      The 10% you mention is of course still quite low, the problem is however, in case of trade war (assuming the unlikely scenario that British manufacturers could still produce), British customers could not find proper domestic substitutes for a 3er touring or an Q5. There is hardly any UK made car that would be a best of its class, but even a vague substitute...

    2. Many journalists have said if you want a fine handling saloon car, Jag are better than anything else. If you want to take an SUV off road at all, Land Rover is the best. Nice on road too of course. If safety is your priority, then you can't go past Volvo. It comes down to priorities as to which is best.

      When it comes to local bias or loyalty, one of the best examples of that is Germany. The British save their loyalty to their football club and nothing else it seems.