Britain is on track to overtake France to become Europe’s second-largest vehicle manufacturer by 2018 according to leading industry executives.
Managing director of BMW’s UK operations, Tim Abbott, told Reuters production at Britain’s eight core car-making factories could top two million within five years, eclipsing the nation’s current record of 1.92 million vehicles set back in 1972.
Britain produced 1.5 million vehicles in 2012 compared with France’s 1.9 million, though strong UK sales and exports and declining volumes from PSA Peugeot–Citroen and Renault continue to see the gap narrow.
“All the indications appear to be saying, ‘Yes, Britain will be second in a few years,” Abbott said.
Nissan executive vice president Andy Palmer said he would not be surprised to see Britain overtake France before the end of the decade.
“You could see it happening if UK plants are at full capacity, which they are not far off being,” Palmer said.
Nissan’s Sunderland plant is currently running at close to capacity, producing 500,000 vehicles a year including the Nissan Note, Qashqai (Dualis), Juke and Leaf. The plant is also gearing up to produce the next-generation Qashqai, the new Note, and an as-yet-unnamed Infiniti model.
The UK Government continues to throw its support behind the industry, late last week confirming the creation of the Automotive Investment Organisation, which will be funded with up to £3 million ($4.9 million) over the next two years.
Germany is Europe’s largest vehicle manufacturer, producing 5.5 million cars last year.