Car makers drive longest period of UK industrial growth in over 20 years

Britain’s car manufacturers are helping drive the country’s industrial sector to its longest period of growth in more than 20 years, according to government figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said cars made for export and two new oil fields had helped grow industrial production for the sixth month in a row in October – the longest unbroken period of growth since 1994.

The official figures, which also include output from mines, quarries, the North Sea and power plants, confirm the manufacturing sector’s status as one of the brightest areas in the UK economy this year. However, there are fears for the future as Britain’s economy is forecast to grow at the slowest pace in the G7 next year, while there is also uncertainty over the outcome of talks with Brussels over the country’s future trading relationship with the EU.

Car manufacturers increased production by 6.3% in October compared with the same month a year ago, driven by an increase in export turnover. Firms recorded the highest ever value of exports of motor vehicle trailers last month, worth more than £4bn.

The ONS also said Britain benefited from increased production at two oil fields that started pumping in June – the new Kraken field in the North Sea, as well as the return of the Schiehallion field – 110 miles west of Shetland – which had been shut for refurbishment since 2013.

Still, some economists said the increase in monthly indsturial production for October was only modest, with growth of just 0.1% on October versus stronger expansion in previous months.

The ONS senior statistician Kate Davies said: “While manufacturing was relatively subdued overall in October 2017 despite record production of cars destined for export, the longer-term picture is one of strong growth.”

Meanwhile, Britain continues to import more from the EU and the rest of the world than it exports to other countries. Excluding some commodities such as gold shipped in and out of London, which statisticians say can distort the figures, the UK’s trade deficit widened by £800m to £6.9bn in the three months to October.