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Japan-UK auto trade as strong as ever as third more British car buyers choose Japanese brands

24 October 2017 #Registrations #SMMT News #UK Manufacturing
  • UK consumer demand for Japanese car brands rises 38.2% in five years, with more than 350,000 registrations in first three quarters of 2017.1
  • Japan remains UK Auto’s second biggest Asian export market, as 34.5% more Japanese buyers choose British brands.2
  • UK’s Japanese plants account for half of British car production, highlighting significance of mutual automotive trade and investment in relationship’s 36th year.

Trade between the Japanese and UK automotive industries is as strong as ever in the relationship’s 36th year, according to figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Demand for Japanese car brands in the UK has risen by 38.2% over the past half decade, with year-to-date registrations reaching some 352,824 – almost 100,000 more than in the same period five years ago.3

At the same time, UK production of cars for Japanese buyers has risen 34.5%, making the country Britain’s sixth biggest export market, and the second biggest in Asia after China. The growth is thanks to an increasing appetite among Japanese motorists for the UK’s growing range of premium, luxury and high performance models. After Germany, the UK is the EU’s second biggest manufacturer of these premium, aspirational products, and latest production figures show that in the first half of 2017, 12,656 Japanese motorists chose a British-built car.

The Japan-UK automotive manufacturing relationship has a strong heritage, stretching back to 1981 when Honda set up a joint venture with British Leyland to develop and produce the Honda Ballade, combining Honda engine and transmission with a British Leyland body. By 1989, Honda was making engines at Swindon and five years later, the plant began producing the Civic. Meanwhile, in 1986 Nissan became the first Japanese manufacturer to open a British plant in Sunderland and in 1992, Toyota entered the market with a factory at Burnaston in Derbyshire, where the Avensis and Auris Hybrid models are now built. Japanese component manufacturers have since followed suit, with those based in the UK including five of the world’s largest automotive suppliers.4

These investors were attracted to the UK by our large automotive market – now the EU’s second biggest after Germany – access to the European market and strong support from government. Our Japanese-owned plants became some of the most productive and efficient in Europe – and still are. Today they account for almost half (47.7%) of UK car production and exporting to markets worldwide, with the British-built Toyota Avensis and Honda Civic Type R even sold back to Japanese buyers.

Speaking today at the 45th Tokyo Motor Show, Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said,

World class engineering and products, government collaboration and huge investment have helped UK Automotive become a global success story. Our relationship with Japan goes back many years and is built on our mutual commitment to trade and investment, with local production of Japanese brands since the 1980s and supply chain following soon after.

This summer’s agreement of an EU-Japan Free Trade Deal is welcome news for both our industries. However, for our relationship to benefit post-Brexit, the UK will need to secure trade agreements with both the EU and Japan, underlining the importance of securing the right deal during Brexit negotiations.

Top 5 British-built Bestsellers in Japan

  1. MINI One
  2. MINI Clubman
  3. Honda Civic Type R
  4. Range Rover Evoque
  5. Land Rover Discovery Sport
  6. Toyota Avensis
  7. Jaguar XE
  8. Range Rover Sport
  9. Jaguar F-Pace
  10. Land Rover Discovery


1 Japanese brands registered by UK new car buyers (Honda, Infiniti, Lexus, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Suzuki, Toyota) currently represent 17.1% of the UK new car market.
2 The UK exported 12,656 cars to Japan January-June 2017, compared with 9,409 over the same period in 2012.
3 97,452 more Japanese brands registered by UK consumers in January-September 2017 than same period five years ago.
4 Japanese-owned supply chain companies with operations in the UK include five of the world’s top 20: Aisin Seiko Co; Calsonic Kansai, Denso, Sumitomo Electric Industries and Yazaki.

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