CAR production is accelerating ahead, driven by demand from Europe, according to the latest figures.

A total of 142,158 cars were manufactured in the UK in March - a 12 per cent rise on the March 2013 figure, the Society of Motor Manufacturers (SMMT) said.

Last month's figure bought the year-so-far production total to nearly 405,000 - a 2.9 per cent increase on the January to March 2013 total.

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About a third of all cars made in the UK are produced at Nissan's Sunderland factory. 

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "The 12 per cent growth in UK car production in March 2014 is a significant step forward after a period of product changes at the start to the year.

"After several years in the doldrums, European demand for new cars is now picking up, with growth in the last seven months.

"This is a welcome boost for the UKs volume manufacturers for whom Europe is the key market. As new models are launched and investments realised, the sector remains on course for all-time record levels of output by 2017."

Commercial vehicle (CV) production dipped 17.7 per cent to 8,027 last month, with production for the home market slumping 27.8 per cent and export production slipping 6.1 per cent.

Mr Hawes said: "UK CV figures continue to be swayed by restructuring of some operations in 2013 and the pull-forward of demand in the heavy commercial sector.

"There are signs of optimism, however, helped by early signs of revival in European demand. This bodes well for the future as new products and investments in the CV sector come into play throughout the year."