Total UK car production remained stable in January, with only a very slight reduction in output compared with the same month last year. That’s according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which was quick to point out a substantial increase in electric vehicle production in UK factories.

In total, car factories in the UK built just over 68,500 new cars last month, down 0.3 percent compared with January 2021, when just under 68,800 new cars were produced. That reduction of 215 vehicles leaves the industry treading water as some manufacturers remain stifled by ongoing supply issues.

Of those 68,500 cars, more than 28,000 were either fully electric vehicles or some form of hybrid. That increase in production of 49.9 percent meant electric and hybrid cars accounted for four in every 10 (41.3 percent) cars built on these shores last month. That made January one of the most prolific months for electric and hybrid car production in the UK, with 77 percent of those vehicles destined for foreign markets.

MINI Electric at Plant Oxford

That reflects the sector as a whole, which generally sees roughly eight in every 10 cars head for customers abroad. In January 2023, the export market shrank by 1.5 percent compared with the same month last year, but exports still accounted for 82.2 percent of all the new cars produced in the UK.

That’s despite the cessation of exports to Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2021. That market alone accounted for 83.6 percent of the reduction in the number of cars built here for foreign customers. Now, more than half of all exported cars (56.6 percent) head for EU countries, while 9.3 percent are destined for the USA and 8.8 percent head to China.

In more positive news, though, the number of cars built in the UK for British customers rose by a much more significant 5.6 percent, more or less cancelling out the shortfall in vehicles built for foreign markets.

Toyota factory, Burnaston

According to the SMMT, the number of cars produced in the UK is set to grow by nine percent in 2023, with 842,000 vehicles expected to roll out of factory gates. However, the SMMT’s chief executive, Mike Hawes, said growth would only be possible with “competitive conditions”.

“Automotive manufacturing can drive long-term growth for the low carbon economy but the sector needs competitive conditions to attract investment,” he said. “Recent global developments, however, suggest increasing protectionism which, if not challenged or mitigated, could put the UK at a disadvantage. To deliver a wholesale industrial transformation we need a competitive framework and a pitch that promotes advanced vehicle manufacturing internationally. We now look to the forthcoming Budget for the necessary measures that will enable the automotive sector to deliver its undoubted potential.”