By Maximilian Clarke

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) this morning revealed record growth in UK car production off the back of strong export demand.

And while the figures have been received as a much needed good news story amidst a background of prolonged austerity and muted consumer demand, manufacturers have urged the government not to rest on their laurels.

Instead, argue manufacturers, it is vital that the industry be supported to prevent the UK’s powerful automotive industry slipping into decline.

Martyn Mangan, Investment Manager specialising in Transport Technologies and Manufacturing at Business Birmingham, says:

“Today’s SMMT figures show an increase in vehicle production in the West Midlands region outstripping the national average of 5.8%. The news is cause for celebration, confirming the continued success of the UK’s vehicle manufacturing industry and Birmingham’s place at its forefront. The information, which also shows strong growth from original equipment manufacturers including Jaguar Land Rover, is also a positive sign for the region’s supply chain industries. With vehicle production figures on the rise, opportunities for investment in those companies who rely on the automotive plants for their own success have never been stronger.

“The implication of the news for the Greater Birmingham region’s employment figures could also be seen as positive. 11,500 people already work in the sector in Birmingham alone with around 100,000 in the wider region. If vehicle production receives the support it needs to continue to grow, more jobs will be created, both at the plants themselves and within the wider supply chain.

“If this positive growth is to continue it is vital that we continue to work closely with industry, government and academia, take all steps necessary to support this crucial industry and boost job and investment opportunities within the Greater Birmingham region as well as in the UK as a whole. Investment into the supply chain and infrastructure as well as ensuring that university partnerships and R&D continue to flourish will be key in achieving this.”

Tony Burke, Assistant General Secretary of the Unite Union, adds:

"These car production figures are a glimmer of hope in gloomy times. With the right investment, the right product and most importantly a skilled and dedicated workforce British manufacturing can be a success. But overall UK manufacturing is not performing well because the government has no strategy to support the sector.

"It is vital that the government creates the right financial and economic environment to allow growth in the car industry to continue."

Investment in UK plants by the big OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) has been significant and this has provided for the creation of over 1,000 jobs - an outstanding success story, which Unite members have contributed to.

UK engine production also rose by 4.9 per cent in 2011, showing that the UK is now a centre of excellence for the production of engines.

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