Huge fall revealed in UK car production

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The Independent Online

UK car and commercial vehicle (CV) production slumped again last month, official figures revealed today.

A total of 61,404 cars were manufactured in January 2009 - a 58.7 per cent drop on the January 2008 figure, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT)said.

CV production totalled just 8,351 - a 59.9 per cent fall on the January 2008 figure.

The only good news was that 83.5 per cent of cars made last month were allocated for export - a record for any January.

SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt said today: "Following extended winter shutdowns, vehicle output continued to fall in January in line with expectations.

"The extent of the decline highlights the critical need for further Government action to deliver the measures already announced and ease access to finance and credit."

He went on: "The proportion of cars exported peaked in January - evidence of the resilience of UK automotive manufacturing. European markets have been lifted by scrappage incentive schemes and SMMT continues its call for a UK plan to boost the new vehicle market and support employment throughout the sector. The motor industry reiterates its request for an urgent Government response."

Today's figures follow a big downturn in production in recent months.

Healthy figures for the first few months of last year meant car production for the whole of 2008 only fell 5.7 per cent compared with 2007, while CV production was down 5.9 per cent.

However, December 2008 car production fell 47.5 per cent compared with December 2007, while CV production decreased 56.7 per cent.

Yesterday, the joint leaders of the Unite union warned the Government they feared the closure of a car factory was "imminent" as they held private talks with Chancellor Alistair Darling to call for more financial support for the industry.

Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson warned Mr Darling manufacturing would not recover from the recession unless "urgent assistance" was given.

Many UK plants extended their normal Christmas and New Year shutdowns in 2008/09 and in recent weeks there have been a series of announcements of job losses and production cutbacks.

BMW has said it is reducing its Mini workforce at Cowley, Oxford, by 850 and cutting production, while 1,200 jobs are going at Nissan's plant in Sunderland and Aston Martin is axing 600 jobs at Gaydon in Warwickshire.

Car and aircraft parts company GKN is shedding more than 500 jobs, while Honda has shut its Swindon plant for four months.

Ford, Jaguar Land Rover, Bentley and Toyota, which has just announced a pay freeze for staff, have all announced either job losses or production reductions.

There are also fears that there could be redundancies among workers at Vauxhall's UK plants following an announcement by the company's US parent General Motors that it is to axe up to 47,000 workers worldwide.