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Automotive industry in the United Kingdom

The automotive industry in the United Kingdom is now best known for premium and sports car marques including Rolls-Royce. Volume car manufacturers with a major presence in the UK include Honda, Nissan, Toyota and Vauxhall Motors (subsidiary of Adam Opel AG, itself a wholly owned subsidiary of GM).[1] Commercial vehicle manufacturers active in the UK include Alexander Dennis, Ford, GMM Luton (owned by Adam Opel AG), Leyland Trucks (owned by Paccar) and London Taxis International (owned by Geely).[1]

In 2008 the UK automotive manufacturing sector had a turnover of £52.5 billion, generated £26.6 billion of exports and produced around 1.45 million passenger vehicles and 203,000 commercial vehicles.[1] In that year around 180,000 people were directly employed in automotive manufacturing in the UK, with a further 640,000 people employed in automotive supply, retail and servicing.[1] The UK is a major centre for engine manufacturing and in 2008 around 3.16 million engines were produced in the country.[1] The UK has a significant presence in auto racing and the UK motorsport industry currently employs around 38,500 people, comprises around 4,500 companies and has an annual turnover of around £6 billion.[2]

The origins of the UK automotive industry date back to the final years of the 19th century. By the 1950s the UK was the second-largest manufacturer of cars in the world (after the United States) and the largest exporter.[3] However in subsequent decades the industry experienced considerably lower growth than competitor nations such as France, Germany and Japan and by 2008 the UK was the 12th-largest producer of cars measured by volume.[3] Since the late 1980s many British car marques have been acquired by foreign companies including BMW (Mini and Rolls-Royce), SAIC (MG), TATA (Jaguar and Land Rover) and Volkswagen Group (Bentley). Rights to many currently dormant marques, including Austin, Riley, Rover and Triumph, are also owned by foreign companies.

Famous and iconic British cars include the Aston Martin DB5, Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Bentley 4½ Litre, Jaguar E-Type, Land Rover Defender, Lotus Esprit, McLaren F1, MGB, original two-door Mini, Range Rover, Rolls-Royce Phantom III and Rover P5.[4][5][6][7][8] Notable British car designers include Laurence Pomeroy, John Polwhele Blatchley, Ian Callum, Colin Chapman, Alec Issigonis, Charles Spencer King and Gordon Murray.[9]


  • History 1
    • 1896 to 1900 1.1
    • 1900 to 1939 1.2
    • 1939 to 1955 1.3
    • 1955 to 1968 1.4
    • 1968 to 1987 1.5
    • 1987 to 2001 1.6
    • 2001 to 2011 1.7
    • 2011 to present 1.8
  • Assembly plants 2
  • Production data 3
    • Production forecast 3.1
  • Car design 4
  • Motorsport 5
  • Inactive marques 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


1896 to 1900

Frederick Simms in his Motor Scout, in June 1899.

The inception of the British motor industry can be traced back to the late 1880s, when Frederick Simms, a London-based consulting engineer, became friends with Gottlieb Daimler, who had, in 1885, patented a successful design for a high-speed petrol engine. Simms acquired the British rights to Daimler's engine and associated patents and from 1891 successfully sold launches using these Cannstatt-made motors from Eel Pie Island in the Thames. In 1893 he formed The Daimler Motor Syndicate Limited for his various Daimler-related enterprises.[10]

In June 1895 Simms and his friend Evelyn Ellis promoted motorcars in the United Kingdom by bringing a Daimler-engined Panhard & Levassor to England and in July it completed, without police intervention, the first British long-distance motorcar journey from Southampton to Malvern.[10]

Simms' documented plans to manufacture Daimler motors and Daimler Motor Carriages (in Cheltenham) were taken over, together with his company and its Daimler licences, by London company-promoter H J Lawson. Lawson contracted to buy The Daimler Motor Syndicate Limited and all its rights and on 14 January 1896 formed and in February successfully floated in London The Daimler Motor Company Limited. It then purchased from a friend of Lawson a disused cotton mill in Coventry for car engine and chassis manufacture where, it is claimed, the UK's first serial production car was made.[10]

Daimler shooting brake 6 hp, twin-cylinder, 1526 cc engine, mounted at the front of the car, four-speed gearbox and chain drive manufactured Coventry 1897 in the UK's first series production run
Louwman Museum

The claim for the first all-British motor car is contested, but George Lanchester's first cars of 1895 and 1896 did include French and German components. In 1891 Richard Stephens, a mining engineer from South Wales, returned from a commission in Michigan to establish a bicycle works in Clevedon, Somerset. Whilst in America he had seen the developments in motive power and by 1897 he had produced his first car. This was entirely of his own design and manufacture, including the two-cylinder engine, apart from the wheels which he bought from Starley in Coventry. This was probably the first all-British car and Stephens set up a production line, manufacturing in all, twelve vehicles, including four- and six-seater cars and hackneys, and nine-seater buses.[11]

Early motor vehicle development in the UK had been effectively stopped by a series of Emancipation Run held on 14 November 1896, the day the new Act came into force. This occasion has been commemorated since 1927 by the annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.[13]

1900 to 1939

The Rolls-Royce 10 hp, which was the first car to be produced as a result of the agreement between Charles Rolls and Henry Royce.

The early British vehicles of the late 19th century relied mainly upon developments from Germany and France. By 1900 however, the first all-British 4-wheel car had been designed and built by Herbert Austin as manager of The Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Company. In 1901, backed by (Vickers Limited) brothers 'Colonel Tom' and Albert Vickers, Austin started what became Wolseley Motors Limited in Birmingham and UK's largest car manufacturer until Ford in 1913.[14]

The great bulk of the pioneering car producers, many of them from the bicycle industry, got off to a shaky start. Of the 200 British makes of car that had been launched up until 1913, only about 100 of the firms were still in existence. In 1910 UK vehicle production was 14,000 units. By 1913 Henry Ford had built a new factory in Manchester and was the leading UK producer, building 7310 cars that year, followed by Wolseley at 3000, Humber (making cars since 1898 in Coventry) at 2500, Rover (Coventry car maker since 1904) at 1800 and Sunbeam (producing cars since 1901) at 1700, with the plethora of smaller producers bringing the 1913 total up to about 16,000 vehicles.[15] Car production virtually came to an end during the war years 1914–1918, although the requirements of war production led to the development of new mass-production techniques in the motor industry.

A 1934 MG PA

By 1922 there were 183 motor companies in the UK, and by 1929, following the slump years, there were 58 companies remaining.[16] In 1929 production was dominated by Morris (founded by William Morris in 1910 in Oxford) and Austin (founded by Herbert Austin in Birmingham in 1905 after he left Wolseley) which between them produced around 60% of total UK output. Singer (Coventry motorcycle manufacturer started building cars in 1905) followed in third place that year with 15% of production.[15]

In 1932 the UK overtook France to become Europe's largest car producer (a position which it retained until 1955). In 1937 the UK produced 379,310 passenger cars and 113,946 commercial vehicles.[17] To celebrate the granting of his peerage, William Morris upon becoming Viscount Nuffield, reorganised his motor vehicle companies in 1938, which by then included not only Morris Motors and Standard (founded in Coventry in 1903): 13%, Rootes (which had acquired Humber and Sunbeam): 11%, Vauxhall (building cars since 1903, acquired by GM in 1925): 10%.[15]

1939 to 1955

The Land Rover Series I, introduced in 1948.

During the Second World War car production in the UK gave way to commercial and military vehicle production, and many motor vehicle plants were converted to aircraft and aero engine production. Following the war the government controlled the supply of steel, and priority was given to supplying foreign-revenue-raising export businesses. In 1947 steel was available only to businesses which exported at least 75% of their production. This, coupled with the inevitably limited competition from continental Europe, and with demand for new vehicles in America and in Australia being greater than the American industry alone could supply, resulted in British vehicle exports reaching record levels and the UK became the world's largest motor vehicle exporter. In 1937 the UK provided 15% of world vehicle exports. By 1950, a year in which 75% of British car production and 60% of its commercial vehicle production was exported, the UK provided 52% of the world's exported vehicles.

This situation remained until the mid-1950s, by which time the American industry production had caught up with American demand, and European production was recovering. By 1952 the American owned producers in the UK (Ford and GM's Vauxhall) had between them a 29% share of the British market, which exceeded the share of either of the UK's two top domestically owned manufacturers. It was in that context that Viscount Nuffield agreed to the merger of his company, the Nuffield Organisation, with Austin, to form the British Motor Corporation (BMC). Thus BMC, comprising Austin, Morris, MG, Riley and Wolseley was formed in 1952 and commanded a 40% share of the British market.[14] German production was increasing yearly, and by 1953 it had exceeded that of France, and by 1956 it had overtaken that of the UK.[14]

1955 to 1968

Jaguar E-type (introduced 1961)

By 1955 five companies produced 90% of the UK's motor vehicle output: BMC, Ford, Rootes, Standard-Triumph and Vauxhall. Of the dozen or so smaller producers Rover and Jaguar were strong niche producers. By 1960 the UK had dropped from being the world's second largest motor vehicle producer into third place. Labour-intensive methods, and wide model ranges hindered opportunities to reduce manufacturing costs – the UK's unit costs were higher than those of their major Japanese, European and American competitors.[18] Although rationalisation of motor vehicle companies had started, full integration did not occur. BMC continued to produce vehicles under the marque names of its incorporated companies, many of which competed with each other.[19] Standard-Triumph's attempts to reduce costs by embracing a modern volume production strategy almost led to their bankruptcy in 1960, the result was that they were purchased by the commercial vehicle manufacturing company Leyland Motors. In 1966, BMC and Jaguar came together, to form British Motor Holdings (BMH). Leyland had achieved some sales success with Leyland-Triumph and in 1967 it acquired Rover. By 1966 the UK had slipped to become the world's fourth largest motor vehicle producer. Following a gradual process which had begun in 1964, Chrysler UK (CUK) had fully acquired Rootes by 1967.

1967 Mini (introduced 1959)

In the context of BMC's wide, complex, and expensive-to-produce model range, Ford's conventionally designed Cortina challenging for the number one spot in the domestic market, and the heavy reliance of the British economy on motor vehicle production, in 1968 the Government brokered the merger of the successful Leyland-Triumph-Rover and the struggling BMH, to form Europe's fourth-largest car maker, the British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC). The new company announced its intention to invest in a new volume car range, and to equip its factories with the latest capital-intensive production methods.[18]

BMC's Mini, designed by Alec Issigonis, had revolutionized the small car market in 1959, and the car remained among the UK's best selling cars for more than 20 years after its launch, the last version finally rolling off the production line after 41 years. The Rootes Group launched the similar-sized Hillman Imp four years later, but by the end of the 1960s Ford and Vauxhall had yet to launch a comparable product, and even with foreign imports slowly starting to gain ground on the British market, Italy's Fiat 500 was one of the few comparable alternatives to the virtual monopoly of the Mini and Hillman Imp in this sector of the market.

Also designed by Alec Issigonis was the Morris Minor, which was heavily updated in 1956 having originally gone into production in 1948. It earned a reputation for low running costs, good reliability and competitive pricing, and continued to sell well throughout the 1960s in spite of the popularity of BMC's 1100/1300 range which was launched in 1962. Ford's competitor in this sector was the Anglia, which featured unconventional styling but was still one of the country's most successful cars from its launch in 1959 up to the end of production in 1967, after which it was replaced by the Escort. Other British competitors in this sector were the Vauxhall Viva and Hillman Minx.

Larger family cars enjoyed strong sales in the 1960s, namely the Ford Cortina (launched in 1962), Austin/Morris 1800 (1964) and Vauxhall Victor (1957). Later in the 1960s, the Rootes Group launched a new competitor in this growing sector of the market - the Hillman Hunter.

The Rover P6, launched in 1963 and the first winner of the European Car of the Year award, was arguably the most popular luxury model in the UK during the 1960s.

The iconic Jaguar E-Type sports car, with a top speed of 145 mph and the choice of a coupe or roadster bodystyle, was launched in 1961 and would remain in production until 1975. Cheaper sports cars also enjoyed strong sales during the 1960s, including the MG B and Triumph Spitfire which were launched in the early part of the decade, and the Ford Capri which was launched just before the decade's end.

1968 to 1987

The first-generation Range Rover, which was in production from 1970 to 1996.

By 1968 UK motor vehicle production was dominated by four companies: BLMC, Chrysler (UK), Ford, and Vauxhall (GM). The Rootes Group had taken on the name Chrysler UK after its takeover by the American car giant Chrysler, which had also taken over French carmaker Simca.

The national champion, BLMC, was handicapped in its attempts to modernise by internal rivalries. Unattractive new products, retention of legacy marques and models, labour disputes, quality issues, supplier problems and inefficient use of new equipment thwarted the dream of efficient high volume production. Increased overseas competition, arising from lowered tariffs and membership of the European Union, and high unit costs, led to low profits, which in turn jeopardised investment plans. Japanese cars, particularly the Datsun badged cars built by Nissan enjoyed a particularly strong surge in popularity during the first half of the 1970s, while French carmaker Renault and West German carmaker Volkswagen also enjoyed an upturn on the British market.

The fortunes of foreign carmakers on the British market were also assisted by the fact that most British manufacturers adopted the hatchback bodystyle, mostly featuring front-wheel drive, considerably later than their continental rivals. For instance, the arrival of the front-wheel drive Volkswagen Golf hatchback in 1974 came four years before any of the four British-based carmakers had launched an equivalent car. By the time the first small British-built hatchback, the Vauxhall Chevette, was launched in 1975, the French Renault 5 had already been in production for three years. However, British Leyland's larger Austin Maxi had been sold with a hatchback and front-wheel drive since its 1969 launch, although it sold similar-sized cars like the Morris Marina and Triumph Dolomite alongside it as a rear-wheel drive saloon alternative. Chrysler launched the Alpine for this market sector in 1975, featuring front wheel drive and a hatchback, but briefly kept the Hunter in production alongside it for buyers who still preferred rear-wheel drive and a saloon or estate bodystyle. At the luxury end of the market, British Leyland was actually one of the first manufacturers in the world to put a hatchback on an upmarket car when it launched the Rover SD1 in 1976.

The popularity of Nissan's range of Datsun-badged cars in the 1970s was largely down to their low prices, cheap running costs, good equipment levels and a reputation for better reliability than most British cars, although these cars also went on to gain a reputation for being prone to rust.

BLMC's share of the UK market dropped from 40% to 32% between 1971 and 1973, with its new Morris Marina and Austin Allegro family cars selling well on the British market but not proving popular on many export markets, with the motoring media being critical of the styling of these new models as well as questions regarding the level of quality.

The Triumph Dolomite Sprint, in production from 1973 to 1980.

By 1974 the UK's position as a world motor vehicle manufacturer had dropped to sixth place. In 1974, both BLMC and Chrysler UK appealed to the Government for financial help. The Government rejected the idea of a BLMC/CUK merger, and instead CUK received a loan and BLMC was subjected to a series of studies to determine its future. The Government's official BLMC enquiry, led by Lord Ryder, suggested that BLMC's strategy was sound, but required huge Government investment to improve productivity by providing mechanisation and improving labour relations.

Despite the effective nationalisation of BLMC as British Leyland (BL) in 1975, the recovery never happened. Chrysler sold its European interests (including those in the UK) to Peugeot in 1978, to allow it to concentrate on its own difficulties in America. The UK interests were renamed Peugeot-Talbot, with production of the Chrysler-developed cars continuing, with the last Rootes-developed car, the Avenger, being discontinued in 1981. Peugeot also developed a saloon version of the Alpine called the Solara, and also launched the larger Tagora, which had been in development by Chrysler when it sold its European operations. It also replaced the entry-level Sunbeam with the Peugeot based Samba in 1981.[18][20]

As in most other developed countries, the 1970s saw major changes to the cars produced in the UK. Front-wheel drive, which had been pioneered by BMC on several new models between 1959 and 1965, now became a common feature on family cars after decades of producing only rear-wheel drive models. The hatchback bodystyle, which had debuted in Europe on the French Renault 16 in 1965, became more popular.

The Austin Metro, which was introduced in 1980

By the end of the 1970s Ford, Peugeot-Talbot and Vauxhall (GM) were well integrated with their parent companies' other European operations. BL stood alone in the UK as an increasingly junior player. As part of the drive for increased productivity in the late 1970s, BL reduced its workforce and number of plants, and strived to centralise its management activities. The city of Coventry suffered particularly badly, with many thousands becoming unemployed after the closure of the Triumph car factory in the city in 1980.

In 1979, BL struck a collaboration deal with Honda to share the development and production of a new mid-sized car (Triumph Acclaim/Honda Ballade), which was launched in 1981. The new car combined Honda engine and transmission designs with a BL body. The next plan was the work on a new luxury car together, the end product being the Rover 800 Series, which arrived in 1986.

Although the UK political scene changed in 1979 with the election of the Thatcher government, the Government continued to support BL with funds for the development of a new mass-market model range (Mini Metro, Maestro, Montego and another Honda collaboration the Rover 800), which were all launched between 1980 and 1986.

Car assembly, with the exception of Jaguars, was concentrated into two central plants – Longbridge and Cowley. In July 1986 BL was renamed the Rover Group.[20]

By the mid 1980s, front-wheel drive was now the rule rather than the exception on mass market cars, with most new models having a hatchback bodystyle as at least an option. Although Ford had adopted front-wheel drive for its new Spanish built Fiesta supermini in 1976 and the third generation Escort in 1980, it had curiously retained rear-wheel drive for its larger Sierra (the Cortina replacement) in 1982, although the Sierra did feature a hatchback bodystyle and was not available as a saloon until 1987.

The supermini sector had expanded rapidly since the early 1970s. BMC's Mini had remained popular beyond its 20th anniversary, but successor organization British Leyland had started work on a more modern and practical alternative by the mid 1970s, the final result being the Austin Metro in 1980 - the new car featured more modern styling and a hatchback bodystyle. Chrysler Europe had axed the long-running Hillman Imp (launched by the Rootes Group in 1963) in 1976 and replaced it with the Chrysler Sunbeam hatchback a year later. General Motors had already adopted this bodystyle with the Vauxhall Chevette (which was also available as a saloon or estate) and Ford Motor Company with the Ford Fiesta. Comparable foreign products like the Fiat 127, Renault 5 and Volkswagen Polo were also proving popular in the UK.

Ford had now divided its European operations between its British factories and other European plants in Spain and West Germany. General Motors had started importing some of its West German and Belgian built Opel products to the UK to be badged as Vauxhalls, and by 1983 its Nova supermini (badged as the Opel Corsa on the continent) was built solely in its Spanish factory. Peugeot was dividing production of most of the Talbot badged vehicles between the Ryton plant near Coventry (the Linwood plant in Scotland closed in 1981) and its French factories by the early 1980s, and started producing its own models at Coventry in 1985 after deciding to axe the Talbot marque due to falling sales.

Foreign carmakers continued to gain ground on the British market during the 1980s, with the likes of Renault, Peugeot, Citroen (France), Volvo (Sweden), Volkswagen (West Germany) and Fiat (Italy) proving particularly popular.

The decade also saw the arrival of purpose-built people carriers on the British market, starting with the Japanese Mitsubishi Space Wagon in 1984, and then the market-leading Renault Espace in 1985, but by the end of the decade this type of vehicle still had only a very small share of the British market and there were still no British-built people carriers available, although a few seven-seater estate models including Austin Rover's Montege were being produced.

1987 to 2001

The Rover 600 Series, in production from 1993 to 1999

In July 1986, Nissan became the first Japanese carmaker to set up a production facility in Europe, when it opened a new plant in Sunderland. The plant initially produced the Bluebird and from 1990 its successor, the Primera, with the MK2 Micra joining it in 1992. Toyota opened a new plant in Burnaston near Derby at the beginning of 1992.[21]

Peugeot started production of the Peugeot 309 hatchback at Ryton (originally a Rootes Group factory) in January 1986, followed by the Peugeot 405 at the end of 1987. As the 1990s progressed, production of the 306 and 206 also began at Ryton.

Honda's venture with Austin Rover/Rover Group saw a number of different designs shared between the two marques. The venture came to an end in February 1994 when British Aerospace sold Rover Group to the German carmaker BMW for £800 million.[22] The takeover meant that, for the first time in 112 years, the United Kingdom no longer had a British-owned volume car maker.[22] BMW's ownership of the Rover Group saw the development of several newer, more upmarket models, giving the British brand an image to match that of its parent company. BMW also revived the MG marque in 1995 on a new affordable sports car, the MGF, as well as strengthening Land Rover's position in the off-roader market. In March 2000 BMW controversially announced the break-up of the Rover Group.[23][24] It retained the rights to the Mini marque, while selling Land Rover to Ford.[25] The MG and Rover marques were sold to the Phoenix Consortium, who branded the remains of the group as MG Rover and concentrated all production at the Longbridge plant. After the split from Rover, Honda continued making the Civic range in the UK at a new plant in Swindon.

The Bentley Arnage, in production from 1998 to 2009

Ford acquired Aston Martin for an undisclosed sum in September 1987[26][27] and Jaguar for US$2.38 billion in November 1989.[28] Production of the new small Jaguar, the X type, started at Halewood in late 2000. By the end of the century, Ford had also acquired Land Rover.[29]

In 1998 Vickers plc put Rolls-Royce Motors, including Bentley, up for auction.[30] Volkswagen Group won the auction with a bid of US$780 million, but Rolls-Royce plc, which had the right to block a transfer of the Rolls-Royce name to non-British owners, agreed to sell the rights to BMW for US$65 million.[30] It was subsequently agreed that control of the Rolls-Royce marque would pass from Volkswagen to BMW in 2003.[30]

In 1995, Ford finally entered the decade-old people carrier market with its Galaxy, which was built in Portugal alongside the identical Volkswagen Sharan and Seat Alhambra as part of a venture between Ford and Volkswagen. Vauxhall entered this sector of the market a year later with the American-built Sintra, but this was not popular with British buyers and was discontinued after just three years when the smaller, German-built Zafira was launched, and proved far more popular than Vauxhall's original entry into the MPV market.

The affordable sports car market enjoyed a revival in the 1990s after going into virtual hibernation in the 1980s. Sparked by the popularity of the Japanese-built Mazda MX5 after its launch in 1989, Rover began development on a new sports car in the early 1990s, finally launching the MG F two-seater roadster in 1995, 15 years after the demise of the last volume MG sports cars. The 1996 Lotus Elise also enjoyed relatively strong sales in this market sector, as did the Vauxhall VX220 (based on the Elise) which was launched in 2000. Ford, which had exited the sports car market by 1987 with the demise of the Capri to concentrate on faster versions of its best-selling hatchbacks and saloons, returned to this market sector in 1994 with the American-built Probe, and then enjoyed more success with its smaller Puma between 1997 and 2002.

2001 to 2011

The Lotus Evora, which was launched in 2008

In May 2000 Ford announced that passenger car assembly as its Dagenham plant would cease in 2002, ending 90 years of Ford passenger car assembly in the UK.[31] At the same time Ford announced that it would invest US$500 million in the expansion of a diesel engine factory at the site, making Dagenham its largest diesel engine center worldwide and creating about 500 new jobs to offset the 1,900 lost in vehicle assembly.[31] In December 2004 Ford announced a further investment of £169 million in the Dagenham plant, increasing annual output to one million diesel engines.[32]

The closure of Vauxhall's Luton car assembly plant in March 2003 left Ellesmere Port as the sole Vauxhall assembly plant remaining in the UK. General Motors also retained the former Bedford works in Luton for producing vans such as the Vivaro and the Movano as well as Renault and Nissan badged variants. In April 2007, it was confirmed that the Ellesmere Port would produce the next generation Astra from 2010.[33]

Losses at Jaguar led to closure of the company's Browns Lane plant in Coventry in 2004.[34][35] Spare capacity at Halewood allowed Land Rover Freelander production to be transferred there in 2006.

Proton failed to materialise,[36][37] and by late 2004 Chinese carmaker SAIC Motor had shown an interest in taking over the Longbridge-based firm – which was now hundreds of millions of pounds in debt. Talks broke down and the firm went into receivership in April 2005 with the loss of more than 6,000 jobs. Three months later, the firm's assets were purchased by another Chinese carmaker – Nanjing Automobile – and Longbridge partially re-opened over the summer of 2007 with an initial workforce of around 250 preparing to restart production of the MG TF which was relaunched in August 2008.

The Aston Martin DBS V12, in production since 2007

In April 2006 Peugeot closed its Ryton plant and moved 206 production to Slovakia.[38][39] In 2007, Ford sold Aston Martin to a British-led Consortium backed by Middle East investors, retaining a small stake in the company and agreeing to continue the supply of components including engines.[40][41] In 2008 Ford sold Jaguar Land Rover to Tata Motors of India for £1.15 billion.[42][43] In November 2009, Dutch sportscar maker Spyker Cars announced that it would be moving production from Zeewolde to Whitley, Coventry, and UK production began in February 2010.[44][45]

In March 2010 McLaren Automotive unveiled its MP4-12C model, alongside plans to produce around 4,000 cars per year at its Woking factory by the middle of the decade.[46][47] At the Paris Motor Show in September 2010 Lotus Cars unveiled five new models due to go on sale by 2016, alongside plans for an investment of £770 million over 10 years, the complete redevelopment of its Hethel factory and an increase in production from under 3,000 cars per year to 6,000 to 7,000.[48] In December 2010 it was announced that Renault had sold its remaining 25% shareholding in its eponymous Formula 1 team to Lotus Cars, and that the team would be renamed Lotus Renault in 2011.[49]

2011 to present

The MG 6, which entered production in the UK in 2011

In January 2011 BMW announced that it would be extending the Mini range with the launch of two new two-door sports crossover vehicles based on the Mini Paceman concept car, with a coupe version to enter production in 2011 and a roadster in 2012.[50][51] In March 2011 Jaguar Land Rover announced that it would be hiring an additional 1,500 staff at its Halewood plant, and signed over £2 billion of supply contracts with UK-based companies, to enable production of its new Range Rover Evoque model.[52][53] In April 2011 the MG Motor subsidiary of SAIC Motor announced that mass production had resumed at the Longbridge plant, as the first MG 6 to be produced in the United Kingdom came off the production line.[54] In May 2011 Jaguar unveiled plans to build the C-X75 petrol-electric hybrid supercar in the UK from 2013, with production to be in association with Williams F1;[55][56] Jaguar announced the cancellation of the project in December 2012 due to the ongoing global economic crisis.[57]

In May 2011, Aston Martin Lagonda confirmed that it was planning to revive the Lagonda marque, with the launch of two or three new models.[58] In an interview with Reuters in the same month, Carl-Peter Forster, the Chief Executive of Tata Motors, revealed that Jaguar Land Rover would be investing over £5 billion in product development over the succeeding five years.[59]

In June, Nissan announced that the replacement for its Qashqai model would be designed and built in the UK, in a total investment of £192 million safeguarding around 6,000 jobs.[60][61] In June BMW announced an investment of £500 million in the UK over the subsequent three years as part of an expansion of the Mini range to seven models.[62][63] In September 2011, Jaguar Land Rover confirmed that it would be investing £355 million in the construction of a new engine plant near Wolverhampton, to manufacture a new family of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines.[64][65] Later in the same month it was announced that the Jensen marque would be revived, with a new version of the Interceptor to be built by CPP Holdings at the former Jaguar factory Browns Lane in Coventry.[66][67][68] In November, Toyota announced plans to make the UK its sole European manufacturing base for hatchback versions of its next C-segment family car, resulting in the investment of over £100 million in its Burnaston plant and the creation of around 1,500 new jobs.[69][70]

In September 2013 it was announced that a new National Automotive Innovation Campus would be built at the University of Warwick's main campus at a cost of £100 million, with £45 million to be contributed by Jaguar Land Rover.[71][72]

In the half-year from January to June 2014, the UK had its best year in new car sales in 9 years. 1.28 million new cars were sold during the period, a rise of 10% compared to the same period in 2013.

Assembly plants

Company Parent company Parent headquarters Plant Models produced Production (latest figures)
AC Cars AC Cars United Kingdom West Norwood AC MKVI n/a
Alexander Dennis Alexander Dennis United Kingdom Falkirk Enviro 200Dart, Enviro300, Enviro400 n/a
Alexander Dennis Alexander Dennis United Kingdom Guildford Javelin chassis, R-Series chassis, Enviro300 chassis n/a
Ariel Ariel United Kingdom Crewkerne Ariel Atom 70 (2013)[73]
Ascari Cars Ascari Cars United Kingdom Banbury Ascari Ecosse, Ascari A10 n/a
Aston Martin Lagonda Aston Martin Lagonda[74] United Kingdom Gaydon One-77, Cygnet, DB9, DBS, Vantage, Virage, Vanquish, Rapide 5,323 (2010)[75]
Bentley Motors Volkswagen Group Germany Crewe Azure, Brooklands Coupé, Continental Flying Spur, Continental GT, Mulsanne 10,014
Briggs Automotive Company Briggs Automotive Company United Kingdom Cheshire BAC Mono n/a
Bristol Cars Bristol Cars United Kingdom Filton Blenheim, Fighter, Blenheim Speedster n/a
Caterham Cars Caterham Cars United Kingdom Dartford R400, CSR260 435 (2003)[75]
Dennis Eagle Ros Roca Spain Warwick Duo, One Pass, Beta 2 n/a
Ford of Britain Ford Motor Company United States Southampton Transit 75,662 (2007)[76]
Ginetta Cars LNT Automotive United Kingdom Leeds G40, G40J, G40R, G50, G55, G55 GT3, G60 n/a
GM Manufacturing Luton[77] Adam Opel AG Germany Luton Opel/Vauxhall Vivaro, Renault Trafic, Nissan Primastar 74,000 (2003)[75]
Honda of the UK Manufacturing Honda Motor Company Japan Swindon CR-V, Jazz, Civic 237,783 (2007)[78]
Jaguar Land Rover[79] Tata Motors[80] India Castle Bromwich XF, XJ, XK[81] F-Type 54,030(Includes Halewood production)[76]
Jaguar Land Rover Tata Motors India Halewood[79] Land Rover Freelander 2, Range Rover Evoque[81] see JLR Castle Bromwich and Solihull
Jaguar Land Rover Tata Motors[80] India Solihull[81] Defender, Discovery 4, Range Rover Sport, Range Rover 234,647(Includes Halewood production)[76]
Leyland Trucks Paccar United States Leyland DAF CF, DAF LF, DAF XF[82] 17,478[83]
LTI Manganese Bronze Holdings United Kingdom Coventry TX4 2,346 (2003)[75]
Lotus Cars Proton Holding Malaysia Hethel Elise, Exige, Lotus Evora 2,935 (Lotus + GM)
McLaren Automotive McLaren Group United Kingdom Woking MP4-12C 4,000[84]
MG Motor SAIC Motor China Longbridge MG 6, MG 3 n/a
Mini BMW Germany Cowley, Oxford Clubman, Convertible, Coupé, Roadster, Hardtop/Hatch 237,700 (2007)[85]
Morgan Motor Company Morgan Motor Company United Kingdom Malvern Morgan Plus 4 1000 (2003)[75]
Nissan UK Nissan Motor Company Japan Sunderland Juke, Note, Qashqai 480,485[86]
Noble Automotive Noble Automotive United Kingdom Barwell Noble M12, Noble M14 n/a
Optare Optare Group United Kingdom Leeds Solo, Alero n/a
Plaxton Alexander Dennis United Kingdom Scarborough Panther, Paragon, Profile, Primo, Centro n/a
Plaxton Alexander Dennis United Kingdom Sheffield Cheetah, Pronto, Beaver n/a
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars BMW Germany Goodwood Ghost, Phantom, Phantom Coupé, Phantom Drophead Coupé 3,538[87]
Toyota Manufacturing UK Toyota Motor Corporation Japan Burnaston Avensis, Auris 277,637 (2007)[88]
TVR Motor Company TVR Motor Company United Kingdom Blackpool Sagaris, Tuscan, T350, Tamora 871 (2003)[75]
Wrightbus Wrightbus United Kingdom Ballymena Wright Eclipse, Wright Solar, Wright Pulsar n/a
Vauxhall Motors Adam Opel AG Germany Ellesmere Port Opel Astra/Vauxhall Astra 115,476 (2007)[89]

There are numerous small companies manufacturing a small number of cars such as David Brown Automotive, Lightning Car Company and Atalanta Motors

Production data

key   Cars Commercial vehicles
UK Motor Vehicle Production by year 1910 to 1980 – cars and commercial vehicles (1,000 units)[90]
Year 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000 2200 Total
1910 split not available   14
1920 split not available   70*
1930 170 67   237
1940 2 132   134
1950 523 263   785
1960 1,353 458   1,811
1970 1,641 458   2,098
1980 924 389   1,312

(* estimated figure)

UK Motor Vehicle Production by year 1990 to 2013 – cars and commercial vehicles (1,000 units)[91]
Year 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000 Total
1990 1,296 270   1,566
1991 1,237 217   1,454
1992 1,292 248   1,540
1993 1,376 193   1,569
1994 1,467 228   1,695
1995 1,532 233   1,765
1996 1,686 238   1,924
1997 1,698 238   1,936
1998 1,748 227   1,976
1999 1,787 186   1,973
2000[92] 1,641 172   1,814
2001[92] 1,492 193   1,685
2002[92] 1,630 191   1,821
2003[92] 1,658 189   1,846
2004[92] 1,647 209   1,856
2005[92] 1,596 207   1,802
2006[92] 1,442 208   1,650
2007[92] 1,535 216   1,750
2008[92] 1,447 203   1,650
2009[92] 999 91   1,090
2010[92] 1,270 123   1,393
2011[93] 1,344 121   1,465
2012[94] 1,465 112   1,577
2013[95][96] 1,510 88   1,597

Production forecast

The Financial Times has forecast that annual UK vehicle production will exceed its historic peak level (achieved in 1972) by 2017.[97] Their forecasted production levels for 2014 to 2017 are: 2014: 1,724,000 units; 2015: 1,864,000 units; 2016: 1,993,000 units and 2017: 2,062,000 units.

Car design

Ford's Dunton Technical Centre in Laindon, Essex is the largest automotive research and development facility in the UK[98]

The UK has a strong design and technical base, with several foreign companies basing some of their research and development resource in the UK, including:

Independent designers and design companies include:


It has been estimated that there are about 4,000 companies in the UK involved in the manufacturing industry related to motorsport.[104]

Formula One motor racing has made its home in the UK,[104] the following eight of the twelve teams competing in the 2013 season are based there:

Formula One engine suppliers:

Other major motorsports teams and organisations:

Inactive marques

Currently inactive British automotive marques include: Allard, Alvis, Armstrong Siddeley, Austin, Autovia, Dawson, DeLorean, Gilbern, Gordon-Keeble, Healey, Hillman, Humber, Jensen, Jowett, Lanchester, Lea-Francis, Morris, Napier, Reliant, Riley, Rover, Singer, Standard, Sterling, Sunbeam, Sunbeam-Talbot, Talbot, Triumph, TVR (production halted), Vanden Plas, Wolseley Motors Limited.

See also


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External links

  • The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders
  • The British Motor Industry Heritage Trust
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