Britain's car factories will become increasingly dependent on European car buyers' tastes with 70% of production currently being exported, according to leading motor industry pundit, Professor Garel Rhys.

Speaking at the Birmingham motor show, Professor Rhys, Cardiff business school's automotive industry director, said: "The dependence on our domestic market by UK car makers is a tenuous thing of the past with more than 80% of sales coming from imports."

He added: "It is now the global motor industry in Britain, but it remains dynamic with export levels exceeding Japan's."

Rhys said the UK new car market was going from strength to strength and heading for a record 2.65 million sales this year.

"It is as competitive as ever with weak prices and the consumer getting a good deal. The UK acts as a dynamo for foreign producers with only us and Spain generating vibrant sales."

The veteran analyst predicted that UK car output would reach 1.7 million units this year and could outstrip the 1972 record of 1.9 million by the end of the decade.

"Forecasts of a meltdown after car production ended at [General Motors subsidiary Vauxhall in] Luton and [Ford] Dagenham have proved wrong. They have been more than offset by extra volume at Land Rover, Jaguar and Mini while the Japanese brands remain strong," Rhys said.

But he issued a warning that UK plants needed to continue producing attractive products and gaps had appeared in the portfolio with the lack of compact MPVs [minivans], small 'box van' light commercial vehicles and heavy trucks.

Asked if he thought any of the multi-national companies with production outposts in Britain might abandon output, he said: "These questions never go away and are very complex political, currency, logistical issues. But I don't see anyone at risk because UK products are good. Manufacturers do not owe us any favours, we must win the argument. It is about buying the best product from the best source."

Rhys said "the only slight worry" was the rise in oil prices and he criticised the anti-car lobby for believing "driving is purely indulgent and people are aching to get out of their cars into other forms of transport."

He asked: "Which other form of transport allows you to file your own flight plan? Driving is not about indulgence there is always a purpose, a consequence."