British car manufacturing continued its strong growth in March with output increasing 9.8% to 159,074 units, according to The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Overseas demand showed the biggest gains, up 14.3% in the month, while production for the home market was broadly stable, falling slightly by -1.4%. It was a trend reflected in first quarter figures, with exports for the first three months growing 11.1% to 329,653 units, while domestic output also rose by 8%, buoyed by stronger growth in January and February, to take overall manufacturing volumes to 443,581, an increase of 10.3%. The news came as the latest productivity figures released for 2015 show that each employee in automotive manufacturing generated on average GBP79,700 per car produced, up 1.3% on 2014 – the highest on record, and around twice the UK national average.


In contrast, UK commercial vehicle manufacturing saw a decline last month as 8,398 CVs were built, down -13.0% compared with the previous year as the market "rebalanced" following a particularly strong performance in March 2015.

First quarter production volumes remained stable, rising 0.9% (to 23,639) over Q1 2015 and marking the strongest quarter in more than four years. The growth was driven by overseas demand, up almost a fifth compared with the same period last year, with 12,450 vehicles exported.

Hawes said: "Following the substantial boost to volumes seen in 2015, it is unsurprising that March's production figures were more subdued. However, exports are driving output, with more than half of all the commercial vehicles made in Britain in 2016 produced for overseas buyers. With continued recovery in Europe, we can be optimistic that this trend will continue."


Engine manufacturing enjoyed a "positive first quarter" with overall production volumes up 3.5% to 667,888 units. UK demand for British-built engines grew 24.6% in March, with 97,326 units produced. March output was down 1.5% on last year at 227,134.

Hawes said: ""Significant growth in domestic demand for British-built engines in March helped the sector achieve a steady performance for the month, down marginally by -1.5%. New UK facilities this year have catered predominantly for the growing home market, with manufacturing for export down -9.3%. However, overseas demand remains strong, with customers in international territories continuing to take the bulk of output, and accounting for 56.7% of overall production."