The number of cars produced for export reached record levels last year.

But with the number of vehicles made for the home market falling by more than nine per cent, total UK car production last year fell short of the 2003 total.

Cars made for export totalled 1,179,753 last year - 3.1 per cent up on the 2003 figure, the Office for National Statistics said.

Production for the home market last year reached 467,020, taking the overall production figure to 1,646,773 - 0.7 per cent down on the 2003 total.

Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders chief executive Christopher Macgowan said: "Stability has returned to car production landscape in the last few years.

"Total volumes have remained steady at around 1.65 million units, although output for export has been rising steadily and is now running at record levels.

"However, while the picture is generally positive, we need to guard against complacency. The UK hosts some of the most productive car plants in Europe, but rising raw material and fuel costs, as well as unfavourable exchange rates, play their part in threatening future prosperity, particularly for companies in the supply chain."

Although production levels of commercial vehicles (CVs) fell 12.7 per cent last month compared with the same month in 2003, last year's full-year CV total, at 209,293, was 10.8 per cent up on the 2003 total.