British commercial-vehicle (CV) production achieved a 24.5% year-on-year increase in March to 9,098 vehicles, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
This growth, which follows an 8.8% decline in March 2018, was stimulated by strong market incentives and upcoming model changes.
The number of vans, trucks and buses built for the domestic market rose by 58.6% to 4,010 units, while export demand increased by 6.5% to 5,088.
The first quarter of 2019 saw 27,513 trucks, buses and vans built in the UK, representing the strongest first-quarter performance since 2012.
The growth was driven largely by growing export demand, with 96% of the export models built so far this year being sent to the European Union.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes (www.smmt.co.uk
) said: “It is certainly positive to see growth in the commercial-vehicle market, but with on-going Brexit uncertainty and the natural variability of buying cycles, we are likely to see some turbulence in the months ahead.
"With most of the commercial vehicles we build in the UK going to EU customers, it is crucial that we quickly agree a deal that retains free and frictionless trade with our most important trading partner.
"The sooner a favourable deal is in place, the quicker we can be confident about the future.”
In stark contrast, British car production declined by 14.4% in March, falling for the 10th month in a row, with 126,195 units produced. Production for both home and overseas markets declined in double digits, down 18.1% and 13.4% respectively.
Mr Hawes said: “Just a few years ago, industry was on track to produce 2 million cars per year by 2020 — a target now impossible with Britain’s reputation as a stable and attractive business environment undermined.”
Moreover, UK engine production fared only marginally better, down 6.3% in March with 244,201 units manufactured. Demand at home and abroad was down 14.1% and 1.5% respectively, with first-quarter output down 7.6% overall — driven by a 15.1% fall in the domestic market.
Mr Hawes added: “An 11th successive month of decline in engine production for domestic vehicle assembly shows the underlying weakness of UK automotive manufacturing.
“Exports, however, are holding up better, down only 3.0% in the first quarter and taking almost two-thirds of all output so far this year.”