UK car production slumps 15% as industry makes plea to avert no-deal Brexit

Industry has now declined for nine consecutive months

Ben Chapman
Thursday 28 March 2019 07:50 GMT
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Declining demand in the UK and in key European and Asian export markets has hit carmakers hard
Declining demand in the UK and in key European and Asian export markets has hit carmakers hard (EPA)

UK car production fell by 15.3 per cent in the year to February, the ninth consecutive month of falls. Manufacturers built 123,203 cars in the UK over 12 months, down from 145,518 a year ago, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.

Declining demand in the UK and in key European and Asian export markets has hit carmakers hard, while continued uncertainty around Brexit is hurting investment in the sector.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said the figures should provide additional impetus for MPs to avert a hard Brexit.

“The ninth month of decline for UK car production should be a wake-up call for anyone who thinks this industry, already challenged by international trade hostilities, declining markets and technological disruption, could survive a ‘no deal’ Brexit without serious damage,” he said.

“A managed no deal is a fantasy.

“Uncertainty has already paralysed investment, cost jobs and damaged our global reputation. Business anxiety has now reached fever pitch and we desperately need parliament to come together to restore stability so that we can start to rebuild investor confidence and get back to the business of delivering for the economy.”

Production for the UK market dropped by 11 per cent, while the number of cars destined for overseas was down 16.4 per cent. Worryingly, since the start of 2019 the decline has been steeper, with production for export down 18.9 per cent.

Around eight in 10 cars assembled in the UK are exported, but a number of important customers are currently experiencing an economic slowdown.

Car exports to China plummeted 56 per cent in a year while production for the EU – the UK’s biggest customer – declined by 14.9 per cent.

Last month, Honda became the latest carmaker to announce job cuts in the UK. The Japanese firm will shut its Swindon factory in 2021, with the loss of 3,500 jobs.

Nissan has said it will build its new X-Trail model in Japan rather than Sunderland, while Toyota has also sounded the alarm, stating that it has “no contingency for no deal”.

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