New-vehicle production in the U.K. rose 3.3% in the first half to 724,272 units, with passenger-car output up 4.1% to 662,852 and commercial vehicles down 4.9% to 61,420.

Releasing the data, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders says U.K. engine production increased 4.7% over the first six months to 1,329,030 units.

“U.K. vehicle manufacturing saw a welcome return to growth in June, with strong demand from key export markets,” SMMT CEO Paul Everitt says in a statement.

“Sustained investment in R&D, skills and new products by the U.K. automotive industry (are) helping to rebalance the economy, but there remain significant challenges.

The economic recovery is still fragile, so government and industry must focus their energies on encouraging growth and maintaining U.K. competitiveness.”

Manufacturers raised passenger-car production 1.8% year-on-year in June to 120,036 units, but cut CV output by 2.2% to 10,425. Engine production rose 0.8% to 239,450 units.

Exports of U.K.-built vehicles increased 15.9% to 586,019 units, with car shipments up 19.5% to 550,085 and CVs down 20.1% at 35,934. Engine exports rose 4.8% to 970,217 units.

With U.K. production on the uptick, Nissan says it will be hiring up to 200 engineers and maintenance technicians at its Sunderland plant.

The new jobs will support record levels of production, introduction of electric-vehicle technology to the U.K. and development of the Leaf EV and next-generation Qashqai.

Meantime, Vauxhall rolls out the 100,000th Astra Sports Tourer at its Ellesmere Port plant in Cheshire.

The plant is the only one producing the ST, which was launched in September 2010 and is exported throughout Europe and to countries including Chile, Israel and South Africa.