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Kate Hills shines the light on British brands and manufacturers, and goes behind the scenes of their businesses. With tips, hints and tricks to help you manufacture in the UK and buy British.
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The Make it British list of British-made cars

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Which models of car are made in the UK, and what was the best-selling British-made car of 2012? Make it British finds out…

British-made cars UK car manufacturing is on the rise – growing by 7% in July 2013, and in the first 7 months of this year nearly 900,000 British-made cars have rolled off the production lines. Car making in Britain peaked in 1972, when nearly 2 million cars were made here, so we may still have some way to go to reach that high, but things are looking good for the UK automotive industry.  The majority of the big players might now be owned by overseas companies, but they are currently sinking millions of pounds worth of investment into their UK manufacturing plants, and creating thousands of jobs in this country.  Pretty soon British car making could be up to the level that is was at in the early 70s.

So exactly which models are made here? And who are the companies that are putting the investment behind UK car manufacture? We’ve drawn up a list of the top British-made car brands to help you make sure that the next car you purchase is Made in Britain.

In alphabetical order:

Aston Martin DB9

Aston Martin DB9

Aston Martin  make the Cygnet, DB9, Rapide, Vanquish and Vantage at Gaydon in Warwickshire. Originally founded by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford, the company has been through various ownerships over the last one hundred years and is now joint owned by Kuwait and Italian investment firms.

Bentley Continental GT

Bentley Continental GT

Bentley motor company is now owned by Germany’s Volkswagen AG, but continues to make its cars at the Bentley plant in Crewe. The luxury car brand known for its saloons recently announced that it will launch an SUV in 2016. If initial press reports  were to be believed, it was considering manufacturing them in Eastern Europe, but they have now confirmed that it will be made in Crewe. As a result, Bentley will be investing £800m into its UK factory, creating 1,000 new jobs.

Honda Jazz

Honda Jazz

Honda have been making cars at their Swindon factory since 1992. Between the original plant, and a second that opened in 2001, they have the capacity to make 350,00 cars in Britain a year (although the actual production figures for 2012 were around 165,000). Their Civic and Jazz models are all British-made, and they have a good website dedicated to their UK manufacturing.

Jaguar XK Convertible

Jaguar XK Convertible

Jaguar makes the XF, XK and XJ models in their factory at Castle Bromwich. Jaguar Land Rover has created 350 new jobs in order to manufacture the new F-Type and anticipates that it will export more than 75% of these. Its all-aluminium construction employs manufacturing techniques adapted from the aerospace industry. That’s British-innovation for you.

Land Rover Discovery 4

Land Rover Discovery 4

Land Rover, together with Jaguar, is owned by India’s Tata Motors Ltd. The luxury car group has recently seen a big increase in demand for its vehicles, reporting a 14% jump in sales in 2013 so far, and nearly 9000 jobs have been created by their British car manufacturing over the last 2 years.  The Defender, Defender CV, Discovery, Evoque, Freelander and Range Rover models are made in Halewood and Solihull. If you fancy seeing how their gas-guzzling SUV’s are made you can go on a factory tour.

Mini Clubman

Mini Clubman

Mini – Unfortunately the iconic British car is no longer British-owned, instead being part of BMW. However, the Mini, Clubman and Cabrio models are all made in Britain at their Oxford, Swindon and Hams Hall factories. There were just over 200,000 minis made in Britain in 2012, making it the second most popular British-made car. My favourite model is the retro-looking Clubman in chocolate brown!

Morgan 4/4 Two Seater

Morgan 4/4 Two Seater

Morgan – The only entirely British-owned and British-made car company on the list. Only a few hundred cars are made every year at their factory in Malvern, Worcester, hence the waiting list for a Morgan can be up to 2 years. They’ve been making the Morgan 4/4, shown above, since 1936 and it holds the world record for being the model of car with the longest continuous production.

Nissan Leaf

Nissan Leaf

Nissan made over half a million cars in the UK in 2012, including the Juke, Qashqui and all-electric Leaf. Their factory in Washington, near Sunderland, made its first vehicle in 1986, and is Britain’s largest car plant, employing over 6000 staff. The Nissan Qashqui was the best-selling British-made car in the UK in 2012, with over 300,000 having been sold.

Phantom Drophead Coupé

Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé

Rolls Royce Motor Cars has been a subsidiary of BMW since 1999 and makes the Phantom and Ghost models at Goodwood in West Sussex. 3500 cars were made in 2011, a 31% increase on the previous year. Not unsurprisingly, lots of them were exported to Asia and the Middle East, but they still sold a fair few in the UK too. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars employs more than 1,300 people at its headquarters in Goodwood and in 2012 it employed over 100 young people on industrial placements; it also runs successful apprenticeship and graduate programmes.

Toyota Auris

Toyota Auris

Toyota has a factory in Burnaston, Derbyshire and another in Deeside North Wales. The Japanese owned company employs more than 3,800 people across its two UK sites, and exports around 85% of the vehicles it manufactures.It even sends some back to Japan! Both the Auris and Avensis are made in Britain.

Vauxhall Astra

Vauxhall Astra

Vauxhall manufactured 90,000 Astras at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire last year. Owned by General Motors, the Vauxhall Astra has been seen in several different guises since 1979, and continues to be one of the best-selling models in the UK. Its latest version, which is due to go into production very soon, will see Vauxhall owner General Motors invest £125m in the Ellesmere Port factory and create around 700 new jobs.

If you would like to see any of the above-mentioned car factories in action most manufacturers allow you to go on a tour of their factory. Just check out their websites for details.

The Top 5 Best Selling British-made cars of 2012 (with number is brackets)

Nissan Qashqai (310,837)
Mini Mini (207,530)
Nissan Juke (154,759)
Land Rover Evoque (112,331)
Vauxhall Astra (90,187)

The Top 5 Best Selling British-made car brands of 2012 (number of cars manufactured in the UK in brackets)

Nissan 510,572
Land Rover 305,467
MINI 207,530
Honda 165,630
Toyota 109,429

*Figures used in this article are from The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders

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  1. Simon on August 30, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Great article. Here are a few more British car manufacturers to add to the list.

    Lotus and Caterham UK designed and built but foreign owned.

    Also Ginetta, Ariel, Grinnall, McLaren, Noble, Radical, Ultima and Westfield.

    Its also worth noting that F1 adds around £6bn to the UK economy as most of the teams and specialist suppliers are based here.

  2. Mark Hyland on September 1, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    Even though Ford no longer make vehicles in the UK, nearly 1 million engines are made at their plants in Dagenham and Bridgend. Also it seemed a bit silly in the Land Rover section to write about their ‘gas-guzzling SUV’s’ when this is supposed to be a pro-British manufacturing article. Also, most of them are actually fitted with diesel engines, not gasoline and these diesel engines are made by Ford in Dagenham.

    • Kate Hills on September 13, 2013 at 6:23 am

      Hi Mark
      Thanks for the figures on the engines, and that’s fair criticism about my gas guzzling comment!

  3. James on September 12, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Must second the ‘gas-guzzling’ issue – also they do the same/more to the gallon than an average family hatch of 20-30 years ago.

    Also, although the Astra seems to languish with only 90k units per annum, compared with the surprising and impressive figure of 310,000 Qashqais made; as an alternative perspective to this – if you look at the list of top 20 best-selling cars of 2013, the Astra is in 4th place.

    So the Astra is best selling British car to British people!

    (Qashqai is not far behind, at 6th place, Juke at 11th, Mini at 16th. Both the Peugeot and Insignia would have also been on the list but some genius decided to close both the factories that built them!)

    Another one- Vauxhall is now the OLDEST British car manufacturer still making products in Britain, at 110 years. Daimler the oldest (but dormant) marque.

    Nice to see an article which proves it’s not all high-quality, high-price, low-volume products from Britain, but still high-quality AND high-volume too. Thanks!

  4. Ed Purvis on September 12, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    Nice to read an article about UK manufactured cars. I have purchased British -built Hondas for the last 13 years and now have the latest Honda Civic which is brilliant – I have had both BMW and Mercedes Cars as company vehicles (but kept my Hondas for the weekends!) which were not as impressive, reliable and definitely overrated. Interestingly enough the British – built Japanese vehicles usually appear at the top of the reliability tables!

  5. Kate Hills on September 13, 2013 at 6:26 am

    Some good additional facts here James. Maybe I need to do a best selling British-made car article ever year.

  6. Liz on September 13, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    MG is a very well known British brand. It’s now owned by china’s SAIC Group who are investing in the Midlands to re-establish an MG Europe manufacturing base here, hopefully with the same success as Nissan, Toyota and Honda. The new MG3 supermini is being launched now. The styling, design and engineering development have been led from their UK technical centre and assembly is part here as well. If it sells well it could be a similar success story to swindon, washington and derby. Definitely worth an “honourable mention” and one to watch!

  7. STEPHEN LANGSTONE on September 16, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    With reference to the article on British built cars – Morgan cars are made at Malvern in Worcestershire – (not Worcester as mentioned!)

  8. David Mackenzie on October 14, 2013 at 12:41 pm


    The history of making cars becomes more complex as the years advance. Initially in the begining A British vehicle used to be Designed and Fully Assembled (body in white manufactured, painted, then assembled. Engine and gearbox likewise with all main parts supplied by the same company ie crankshaft, engine block, trasmission case, gears, flywheel etc. Dress items for the assemblies were contracted out to suppliers who were specialists in the own right ie Alternators, Bosch, or Denso, to name just a couple. This was the process adopted by most of the big names Rover, Ford, Vauxall, Landroverer and Jaguar.
    However there has been a progressive changes depending on the manufactures philosopy, powerbase and cost. Example Rolls new plant at Goodwood, yes the vehicle is assembled here in the UK however the engine is made at BMW Germany, transmission contracted out, BMW do not make gearboxes its contracted out as is the norm across the range.
    So the definition of a British car is subjective Morgan, yes the Body is designed and fully assembled in Worcestershire at Malvern, but where do the Engine and gearbox supply come from it used to be Rover both 4 cylinder and V8 but now it could be Toyota.
    Manufactures have become very economical with there comments, for obvious reasons, as it becomes a little embarrasing to admit the home truths. Likewise manpower to required to cast,machine and assmble engines and gearboxes could be significantly greater than car assemble.

  9. toby on October 25, 2013 at 2:49 am

    It’s also easy to forget the less glamorous vehicles such as tractors, Vans, trucks, taxis, specialist vehicles, military vehicles, JCBs, mobile cranes, etc.

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