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25/01/13 – Range Rover Evoque drives British exports boom

Range Rover’s smash-hit Evoque has driven UK car production to its highest level since 2008, and an all-time record export level. In 2012, UK car manufacturing was up 9% compared with 2011, with 1.46m cars produced. Almost 83% were exported.

The Evoque was 2012’s standout performer, having racked up an astonishing 108,598 sales last year. In August, Land Rover’s Halewood plant (which produces the Evoque and facelifted Freelander 2) switched to round-the-clock production, for the first time in its history. The move created an extra 1000 jobs, and helped drive total Land Rover production up by 28% year-on-year.

Who else was a winner last year?

According to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) , Jaguar production climbed by 12% – though that only equates to another 5984 cars. Nissan’s Sunderland plant churned out in excess of half-a-million cars, up 6.3%, while Mini production grew 8.4%.

On paper, Honda was the biggest climber with almost 70% growth. But these figures are tempered by 2011 being a shocking year for Honda due to the Japanese tsunami hitting the supply chain, and the Euro crisis and run-out years for the Civic and CR-V stifling production. 2013 has started badly for Honda too, with 800 jobs cut from the Swindon plant.

Britain isn’t quite importing more vehicles than it exports though, although the SMMT predicts the import/export see-saw will tip our way in 2013. But by car list price – a far more important economic index – Britain’s car industry is already in the black. Land Rover is a strong case study: of the 305,467 cars, Land Rover assembled, just 54,235 stayed with UK customers.

Where are all these exported cars going?

China and the US mainly: their insatiable thirst for luxury (British) goods has pulled Land Rover and Bentley from the insecure to the bouyant. Chinese car sales are tipped to rise from 6.2m in 2009 to over 20m by the end of the decade, and it’s super-cool British offerings (SUVs and saloons more so than Spyder supercars) that are hoovering up the money of China’s nouveau rich.