LONDON -- Jaguar Land Rover passed Nissan Motor in 2015 to becomes the UK's biggest auto manufacturer by vehicle production.
JLR's output at its three UK factories rose by 9 percent to 489,923 cars. Nissan's production at its sole UK factory in Sunderland fell 4.7 percent to 476,589, data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed.
BMW's Mini brand was third, followed by Toyota, Honda and General Motors' Vauxhall unit. (see chart below).
Overall, UK car output increased by 3.9 percent to 1,587,677 million cars last year, approaching the previous all-time high before the Lehman crisis in 2005 when 1,595,697 vehicles were produced. Jaguar Land Rover's UK production amounted to just under a third of the country's total vehicle output.
Jaguar Land Rover's fortunes have revived since Ford Motor sold the luxury automaker to India's Tata Motors in 2008. Last year, JLR's global vehicle sales rose 24 percent to an all-time high of 487,065 as gains in Europe and the U.S. offset falling demand in China.
JLR is adding fresh products and expanding production outside its traditional UK base. The company plans to open a factory in Slovakia in 2018 and will this year start production in a new plant in Brazil. The company opened a factory in China in 2014.
The company has said it expects to increase annual vehicle sales to about 850,000 by 2020.
EU key market
Exports of UK-built cars to other EU countries rose 11 percent last year. Exports to EU markets accounted for 58 percent of UK auto production.
SMMT CEO Mike Hawes said the UK’s upcoming referendum on whether to remain in the EU could have an effect on the market’s future growth. "Europe is our biggest trading partner and the UK's membership of the European Union is vital for the automotive sector in order to secure future growth and jobs," he said.
U.S. demand for UK-built cars rose by 27 percent, making it the UK’s biggest trading destination outside the EU, ahead of China. Vehicle exports to China fell by 38 percent.