Number of car exports to China multiplied seven times since 2009

19 February 2015 #SMMT News
  • Automotive sector now has greater share of UK exports than ever before at 11.2%
  • China is the largest single market for British-built cars after the UK
  • Number of car sales to Asia trebled  in five years
  • UK exported just under 1.2 million cars to more than 100 countries in 2014


London 19 February, 2015, Figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that exports of cars to China have increased seven-fold since 2009. In 2014,137,410 UK-built cars were exported to China, an increase of 14.5% over 2013. Only the UK bought more British-built cars than China last year, with exports to China greater than combined UK exports to Brazil, India and Russia.

The trend in China reflects substantial growth in the wider Asian market, with the number of UK-built cars exported to Asia having more than trebled in five years. In 2014, the UK exported 220,682 cars to the region, compared to 60,804 in 2009. Asia is now the UK automotive industry’s largest export market after Europe, with 18.5% of all cars destined for the region.

In 2014 the automotive sector represented a greater share of total UK exports than ever before, accounting for 11.2% of revenue, valued at £26.2 billion.  The UK exported 1,195,190 cars to more than 100 countries worldwide last year, marking a 54.7% increase over 2009, when 772,210 cars were exported.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “Economic growth in Asia over the last five years has seen demand for new cars accelerate massively. A desire for high-quality premium vehicles with a strong brand heritage has placed the UK in a prime position to take advantage of this emerging market. The British car industry’s success in the region is down to the quality of our globally competitive products built with our engineering excellence and our highly skilled workforce. The strength and importance of the UK automotive sector to the UK economy is self-evident and automotive exports at 11.2 % are the highest share of UK exports in history. ”

Drivers of export growth

Economic growth in a number of Asian markets such as China has led to an increased demand for high-quality and luxury vehicles. The UK has a rich heritage of producing premium vehicles which it has taken advantage of in recent years. Significant investment in brands such as Aston Martin, Bentley, Jaguar Land Rover, McLaren and Rolls-Royce, mean that 60% of all UK-built models on offer are from premium manufacturers.

Not only has growth in the Asian market seen a surge in UK exports, it has also helped the average export value of UK-built cars increase from £10,200 in 2004 to £21,900 in 2014.

GDP growth vs UK exports 2009-2014

Export volumes by region

Export table 1


Top 10 Asian export markets

Export table 2


There has been growth in almost all Asian export markets since 2009. The number of cars exported to South Korea has increased five-fold, making it the UK’s eighth largest export market outside of Europe – up from 16th in 2009.

Export volumes are still modest in a number of Asian markets, with the majority of countries enforcing high import duty to drive local production. However, there has been significant growth in the number of cars exported to most Asian countries, underlining the strong appetite for UK-built cars.

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