For the first time since 1966, the United Kingdom’s automobile industry will likely build more cars than those built in France. Increasing domestic and export sales are expected to make 2013 a record year for car manufacturing, putting Great Britain in third place among car producing countries in Europe, behind Germany and Spain. UK car production is estimated to reach 1.55 million units, up from 1.47 million the previous year and 1.35 million in 2011. In contrast, French car production for 2013 is expected to fall to ~1.54 million units, down from 1.66 million in 2012 and 1.88 million the year before that. Some analysts and industry executives predict UK car production to hit 2 million by 2017 as investments to plants bear fruit.
The growth in manufacturing was attributed to the strength of traditional British brands (albeit foreign owned) such as Jaguar, Land Rover, Mini, Vauxhall, Rolls-Royce and Bentley, as well as strong production at Japanese automakers like Nissan, Toyota and Honda that have set up assembly operations in the UK.
Some have attributed both the survival of those British brands and the growth of transplant assembly facilities to late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whose government both courted Japanese automakers and provided £2.9 billion of taxpayer money in subsidies to British Leyland from 1979 to 1988, allowing iconic British brands to survive long enough to be bought up by the Germans.
At the same time the drop in the production of French cars is attributed with overcapacity, a stagnant European car market in general and in particular the soft domestic French market on which French manufacturers are highly dependant, a lack of business confidence in the current government and currency issues regarding the Euro.