UK car production in March rose 7.4% by more than 11,000 units to 163,123 units - the highest March total since 2000.

Production for export continued to rise, up 11.7% in March to 114,297 units, and up 10.7% to 303,372 for the year to date.

SMMT chief executive Christopher Macgowan said: "So far in 2004, car production is up 5% [to 424,325] and if the market continues to grow as expected, we will see total output hit 1.7 million units in 2004. This will be the best performance since 1999."

March van, truck and bus production was up 17.3% on March 2003 to 20,249.

Output was up 17.7% to 58,126 year to date.

Exports have grown 11.5% to 31,231 so far in 2004.

"We think we'll see the annual production total hit 200,000 units this year, underlining the positive outlook for CV making in the UK," Macgowan said.