British commercial vehicle manufacturing grew 8.5% last year, with nearly 85,000 units leaving production lines.
The increase in output follows weaker performances in 2016 and 2017, and low volumes at the beginning of the year. According to the SMMT, domestic demand increased by 17.9% in 2018, with an additional 5,248 CVs built for UK operators.
Exports grew by 2.9% to 50,320 units, with almost six out of every 10 vans, trucks, taxis and buses built in the UK in 2018 exported, 93.6% of those going to the EU and 2.3% destined for Asian markets.
Image courtesy of SMMT
December finished 2018 on a high, with commercial vehicle output up 79.2% as production for home and exports experienced significant increases, up 175.6% and 40.1%.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Commercial vehicle production ended 2018 on a very positive note, with strong deals ahead of some important model changes securing significant growth in December resulting in a boost to annual volumes.”
Though he added, “With Europe accounting for more than nine out of every 10 commercial vehicles we export, it is clear that maintaining a beneficial trading relationship with the EU is critical. This means securing a deal that will allow this vital sector to continue to thrive.”
Automotive sector on ‘red alert’
This success follows car manufacturers urging leaders to do whatever it takes to avoid a ‘no deal’ Brexit, as British car production fell to its lowest level for five years. 1,519,440 new cars left UK factories, a decline of -9.1%, this the second consecutive annual fall as the sector faces multiple challenges.
The news comes as SMMT also revealed that inward investment in the sector plummeted in 2018 – down almost half (-46.5%) on 2017 to just £588.6m, amid fears over the UK’s future trading prospects with the EU and other key global markets after 29 March.
Case study: Toyota Corolla
Though it is not all doom and gloom for British car makers. Production on the new Toyota Corolla model started earlier this year at the company’s Burnaston plant, following a £240m upgrade to the factory.
The site is the exclusive European production centre for the new model. According to Toyota, it has included the installation of more than 200 high-speed robots.
The new model is the first in Europe to offer a choice of two self-charging hybrid electric powertrains, and are to be launched commercially in Europe from this month.
The Corolla will offer customers an upgraded 1.8 litre engine that is manufactured at the Toyota Deeside engine plant in North Wales, and a new powerful 2.0-litre hybrid powertrain.
To date, the Derbyshire facility has produced over four million cars and engines and currently employs around 3,200 people across both sites. In 2010, Burnaston was Toyota’s first European site for hybrid electric vehicle production, with the introduction of the first Auris Hybrid model.