A RECORD-BREAKING North-East car maker has played a pivotal role in the UK's vehicle manufacturing industry hitting a six-year high.

A report says Nissan's Sunderland plant was integral to the UK building 1.5 million cars last year, with factories across the country rolling vehicles off their production lines every 20 seconds.

The survey, from The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), says the Japanese manufacturer made the most cars in 2013, producing more than 500,000 on Wearside.

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Land Rover made 340,000, followed by Toyota with 179,000 and Mini, which produced 174,000.

The figures come after Nissan's new Qashqai model rolled off its Sunderland production line, which has helped take its North-East workforce to more than 7,000 for the first time.

The SMMT said surging demand at home and abroad saw overall UK production increase by 3.1 per cent in 2013, with experts predicting output will reach about two million in 2017.

Bosses added the UK is in line to become the third largest car manufacturer in Europe after Germany and Spain.

Business Secretary, Dr Vince Cable, hailed the figures.

He said: “This is another sign that the UK car industry is going from strength to strength, and our success lies in the appetite from countries around the world for UK cars.

“About 80 per cent of the 1.5 million cars we produced last year were exported, which is a testament to the diverse, high quality of UK manufacturing.”