Car production fell by nearly a third

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The Independent Online

Car production slumped in 2009, driven down by the depressed state of the motor market in the early part of the year, it was announced today.

Commercial vehicle (CV) production also took a battering, figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed.

Despite excellent December 2009 results, the number of cars produced last year was 30.9 per cent down on the 2008 figure.

In total, 999,460 cars were manufactured in the UK last year. CV production totalled 90,679 - a 55.3 per cent drop on 2008.

The industry could at least take heart from the December 2009 figures which showed that car production rose 58.5 per cent compared with December 2008 - the biggest monthly increase since May 1976.

CV production last month was up 15.6 per cent compared with December 2008.

SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt said today: "The significant rise in December vehicle production is welcome news and signals some greater stability across global automotive markets.

"We expect the year ahead to be extremely challenging, but the return of economic growth and a competitive exchange rate will help UK producers.

"Car and commercial vehicle production remain well below pre-recession levels and it is essential that there continues to be a focus on creating more and better-priced finance for businesses and consumers."

The main damage was done in the first part of the year when the lack of consumer demand led many car companies to cut production.

The introduction of the Government's car scrappage scheme boosted both production and sales in the second half of 2009.

However, the scrappage scheme is due to end soon and the worry is that the recent sales and production surge could cease.

Business minister Ian Lucas said: "The automotive industry has had a difficult year, but industry and Government have taken action to help manage the challenges. The £400 million scrappage scheme has helped boost demand and even enabled some companies to boost production - like Nissan in Sunderland.

"The end of 2009 saw some exciting developments for the industry in the UK. Vauxhall and Honda began production of their new models, Toyota announced the UK would be the first European plant to produce its first hybrid Auris vehicle, and BMW announced that it will build two new Mini models at its Cowley plant."

A Business Department spokesperson added: "The industry has had a tough year, and has responded well to the challenges. It is important to remember that the 2009 production figures reflect the extended shutdowns over the summer, which was a way of managing the downturn in demand without losing capacity.

"The SMMT's figures have consistently shown the Government's scrappage scheme has boosted the industry, and consumers still wanting to benefit from the scheme should put their orders in quickly as time is running out."