British car, truck and van factories exported record numbers of vehicles last year, industry statistics have revealed.
Overall car production fell by more than 50,000 units or three per cent to 1.6 million in 2005 - mainly because of the collapse of MG Rover and the closure of Longbridge which resulted in the loss of nearly 80,000 cars.
But factories exported a record 74 per cent of their output, or just under 1.2 million cars, a rise of nearly three percentage points.
Production in December fell by 13 per cent to 95,283 units.
According to industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, exports rose to an all-time high both in terms of volumes and percentage of production.
Production for the home market, in contrast, fell by 12 per cent to 411,194 units, yesterday's figures from the Office of National Statistics showed.
But stripping out the effects of the loss of Longbridge, meant that UK manufacturers showed a net 1.7 rise in output, the SMMT stressed.
Chief executive Christopher Macgowan said: "2005 saw record output levels at many of the UK's car manufacturing facilities, with BMW's Mini plant and Toyota's Derbyshire site coming up hot on the heels of Nissan's 315,000 units.
"Despite increases in other UK plants, the Longbridge shortfall of 77,000 units was enough to bring output down to just under 1.6 million units.
"The record export volumes, now nearly 75 per cent of output, demonstrate that the UK is still a great place to make high quality cars."
Total commercial vehicle production fell last year by 1.2 per cent to 206,753, while volumes in December slumped by nearly nine per cent to 13,558.
The temporary cessation of production of vans at LDV's Birmingham factory while the company sorted out a cashflow problem partly accounted for last month's fall.
Van and truck exports rose by 1.7 per cent to 130,273 units during the year and the proportion of overseas sales rose to 63 per cent from 61.2 per cent in 2004.
Commenting on yesterday's figures, Kevin Honey, a Birmingham-based automotive industry expert at Ernst & Young, challenged the "popular belief" that the end of MG Rover was the main reason for the decline in car production.
"Sales typically drop off towards the end of a model life, and the period of change between models often causes a drop-off in production."