Sunderland's Nissan plant saw production fall slightly last year, according to a new report from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT)
Figures released today show the plant still turned out almost half a million cars as automotive production levels across the UK overtook pre-recession levels for the first time.
Sunderland produced 476,589 cars in 2015, a drop of 4.7% on 2014's 500,238, as the plant geared up to begin production of the new Infiniti Q30, launched last month.
Nissan's Senior Vice President for Manufacturing, Purchasing and Supply Chain Management in Europe, Colin Lawther said: "While no other plant in the history of the UK car industry has ever built more than 400,000 cars annually, Nissan Sunderland Plant has now done so for six consecutive years, three of which have seen production rise over 500,000 cars.
"Last year the company's flagship plant in Sunderland entered the premium market for the first time with December's launch of the Infiniti Q30 – the first new car brand to be built in the UK on such a scale in 23 years. This complex project was the reason behind a reduced output on the plant's Line 2.
"In September last year the second-generation Nissan Qashqai entered the history books after 500,000 were built in 21 months – another UK industry record.
"Today's figures announced by the SMMT show continued growth for the UK car industry and that is great news for British jobs and exports and for our UK supply chain."
Sunderland remained Britain's most productive car plant last year but Nissan was overtaken as the UK's most productive car manufacturer by Jaguar Landrover, which built 489,923 cars across its three plants.
British manufacturers made more cars in 2015 than any year since 2005, with production growing 3.9% to 1,587,677 vehicles, according to today's SMMT figures.
A record number of cars – representing 77.3% of total production – was for export, with 1,227,881 units leaving the UK, up 2.7% on 2014 levels.
Demand was down in some global markets, including China and Russia, but the economic recovery in Europe, the UK’s biggest trading partner, boosted demand for UK-built cars by 11.3% in 2015. The region now accounts for 57.5% of all UK car exports.
Appetite for British-built cars also grew significantly in other key and emerging regions. The US overtook China as the UK car industry's biggest foreign market outside the EU and notable growth was also seen in Australia, South Korea, Turkey and Japan.
British consumer and business demand for British-made cars also contributed to last year’s success, with the home car market rising 8.1% on the previous year. One in seven new cars registered in the UK in 2015 was made in Britain.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “Despite export challenges in some key markets such as Russia and China, foreign demand for British-built cars has been strong, reaching record export levels in the past year.
"Achieving these hard fought for results is down to vital investment in the sector, world class engineering and a committed and skilled UK workforce – one of the most productive in the world.
“Continued growth in an intensely competitive global marketplace is far from guaranteed, however, and depends heavily on global economic conditions and political stability. 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.”
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said, “Backing Britain’s car industry has been a priority for this government and today we see the industry going from strength to strength.
“I am hugely encouraged that manufacturing is at a 10-year high and exports are at a record level. All this means jobs and the security of a pay packet for workers and their families.
“Our plans to rebalance the economy mean we have to continue to build on our great manufacturing strengths in the Midlands and the North of England, and work together to ensure that Britain continues to prosper as a global leader in car production.”