Mini helps drive up UK vehicle production

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The Independent Online

Despite the uncertainty facing Jaguar and Land Rover, UK vehicle production in October was up by almost a third on a year ago, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. In terms of the year to date, output was up 4.6 per cent on 2006.

Commercial vehicle production has also risen. The figures are all the stronger given the closure in January of Peugeot's Ryton plant.

"October marked the fourth successive month of double-digit growth in UK car production this year, with a 31.1 per cent rise," said Christopher Macgowan, the SMMT chief executive. "This continued recovery is the result of strong demand for new models coming on stream. With the six-month volumes up 12.4 per cent, we may even pass the year-end forecast total of 1.5 million units."

The British motor industry, now almost entirely in the hands of transnational companies based in Japan and Germany, has launched some very successful models. The second generation of the new Mini, the latest Honda Civics and CR-Vs, new Land Rovers and Nissan's Qashqai are the main showroom hits, here and abroad, with exports of UK cars up 5 per cent in the year to date.

BMW says their Mini plant at Cowley, Oxford has seen an investment since 2000 of £380m, culminating in an increase in capacity to 260,000 vehicles per annum. Almost 200,000 Minis have been produced so far in 2007, with Mini engines now sourced at BMW's Hams Hall factory, Birmingham. The Mini is the UK's best seller, though Nissan, based in Sunderland, remains the UK's major producer, with 300,000 vehicles made this year.

However, the Business Secretary John Hutton has warned that thousands of UK jobs in the Jaguar and Land Rover supply chain could be at risk with the proposed sale of the marques, though the Government was confident the successful bidders for the car makers would keep production in the UK.