Britain set to overtake France as Europe's second-largest carmaker

British car manufacturing volumes could overtake that of France within the next five years, according to industry executives.

Thanks in part to demand from the rapidly expanding Chinese market, UK based plants of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), BMW and Nissan are operating at near full capacity.

BMW's director of UK operations, Tim Abbott, believes that Britain will produce more cars than France by 2018, if the current trends continue.

Speaking prior to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders conference in London, he said: "All the indications appear to be saying Britain will be second in a few years.

"It will be about the demand for the cars made in the UK, but that looks to be there judging by the recent performance of the likes of JLR, Nissan and BMW."

Nissan executive vice president Andy Palmer echoed the prediction: "You could see it happening [UK overtaking France] if UK plants are at full capacity, which they are not far off being."

Britain made 1.5 million cars last year, and expectations are that this will rise to 2 million by 2018.

Germany is currently far and away the largest manufacturer of cars in Europe, turning out 5.5 million last year. France on the other hand managed just 1.9 million, thanks to slowing demand for domestic brands Peugeot, Citroen and Renault.

Britain is defying the slump seen in the rest of Europe, with slight growth in new car sales.

However, it is demand from abroad that is fuelling the increased levels of manufacturing, with China now the largest market for luxury brands Bentley, JLR and Rolls-Royce.