Nissan has retained its position as the largest UK car-maker. In 2009 the company's Sunderland plant turned out a third of all the cars produced in the UK, or 338,150 units out of a total 999,460; Sunderland has held the top spot among Britain's car factories since 1998 and currently produces the Qashqai, Micra and Note models. The new Juke mini-crossover will be added later this year.

Total car production in the UK fell heavily last year compared with an already weak 2008, when 1,446,619 cars were made here. The composition of UK production has also changed drastically in the last ten years, four of the UK's biggest and longest established car assembly facilities – Ford at Dagenham, Vauxhall at Luton, Rover (formerly Austin) at Longbridge and Peugeot (formerly Rootes Group) at Ryton – closed, with most of the slack being taken up by Honda at Swindon, Toyota at Burnaston and Nissan.

By contrast, no further plant losses have so far occurred during the current recession, which means the UK industry should have plenty of scope to step up output levels as the economy recovers – helped, of course, by a sterling exchange rate that has weakened by some 30 per cent against the euro since its peak.

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