LONDON (Reuters) -- Britain may overtake France as Europe's second-largest automotive producer within the next five years if UK car sales and exports maintain current strong growth, industry executives said.
Nissan, BMW's Mini brand and Jaguar Land Rover are among automakers exporting vehicles from their factories in England.
"You could see it happening [the UK overtaking France] if UK plants are at full capacity, which they are not far off being," said Nissan's executive vice president, Andy Palmer.
Nissan's Sunderland factory in northeast England is operating at close to full capacity, while production at the Mini factory in Oxford, south England, is on the rise, helped by growing demand for British-built cars in emerging markets.
"All the indications appear to be saying 'yes' Britain will be second in a few years," Tim Abbott, managing director of BMW's UK operations said on the sidelines of the SMMT automotive conference in London on Thursday.
Last year 1.5 million cars were produced in Britain, compared with 1.9 million in France, according to European car industry association ACEA. However, volumes are slipping in France, largely down to slowing sales at PSA/Peugeot-Citroen and Renault.
BMW's Abbott said the output from Britain's eight main car plants could hit 2 million by 2018, ahead of the previous record of 1.92 million vehicles set in 1972. Europe's biggest producer, Germany, built 5.5 million vehicles last year.