New car production in the UK grew by more than six percent in March, according to new figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). According to the industry body, which represents British-based car makers and dealers, the rise is partly down to the easing of supply shortages.

A total of more than 81,600 new cars rolled off UK production lines in March, up 6.1 percent compared with the same month last year. What’s more, that result brought total output for the first three months of the year to almost 220,000, which represents a six-percent uplift compared with the same period in 2022.

As usual, the vast majority of new cars built in the UK during March were destined for customers abroad, and the number of vehicles built for foreign markets rose by more than 10 percent in comparison with March 2022. With the number of vehicles built for the domestic market falling by a little over five percent, that result meant 75 percent of all new cars built in the UK during March were exported.

Nissan Juke production at Sunderland plant UK

During the first quarter of the year overall, meanwhile, exports were even more crucial to UK manufacturing, with almost 175,000 new cars built for foreign customers during the first three months of 2023. That’s an increase of 6.6 percent compared with the same three months of 2022.

Although the number of new cars built for UK customers also rose – up by around four percent to just over 45,000 – exports still made up eight in every 10 cars built in the UK during the first quarter of 2023.

In March alone, 61,000 cars headed abroad, with almost two-thirds (63.6 percent) of those heading to the European Union. The next biggest markets were the USA and China, although production for both those markets declined slightly in March.

Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said output was still lagging behind pre-pandemic levels, and the industry would need government support to remain competitive.

“A second consecutive month of growth for UK car production gives cause for optimism,” he said, “though volumes are still well below pre-pandemic levels. If British car manufacturing is to get back towards those levels, with all the economic benefits that brings, we need to match the best in global competitiveness. That means driving down the high cost of UK energy, reforming business rates and vigorously promoting Britain globally to secure the investments essential to a zero-carbon automotive future.”

MINI Plant Oxford has built more than 11,000 MINI Cooper SE since production began