The UK automotive sector is now one of the most efficient in Europe, outperforming the EU average for energy, CO2 and water, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) claimed in a new report.

Thanks to strict efficiency targets and continuous improvement and refinement of manufacturing processes, SMMT said, the sector has reduced its environmental impact. Between 1999 and 2018, energy savings added up to power for 9.5m homes a year while the CO2 emissions reduced would fill the Royal Albert Hall 37 times.

Manufacturers also saved 693,969 tonnes of waste from landfill, roughly the annual amount produced by Bristol, Leeds and Edinburgh cities combined.

The amount of water saved was equivalent to 813 litres of water for everyone in the UK.

The SMMT's 20th annual sustainability report revealed environmental, economic, and social gains achieved by the sector over the past two decades, highlighting the substantial improvements in areas such as energy and water use, waste to landfill and CO2 emissions.

Average new car CO2 emissions have fallen 31.2% since 1999 while nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from new cars have been cut by 84% since the turn of the century and exhaust particulate matter virtually eliminated.

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Over the past 20 years, SMMT said, automotive manufacturing had grown to become one of the UK's most important economic assets, turning over GBP82bn in 2018 – up 70% since the first report in 1999.

Average automotive wages have risen by 85% over the period compared with 61% across wider manufacturing. Automotive manufacturing workers are now said to be some of the UK's better earners, with an average salary of GBP41,800, 40% higher than the national average.

Productivity has increased with automotive output per job growing by 208% from GBP32,000 to GBP100,900. Exports by value have also grown with 81.5% of cars produced in 2018 destined for other markets compared with 63.9% in 1999.

"These substantial advancements have been driven by massive investment in new models and plants," SMMT said.