British car manufacturing plummeted by almost half in April this year, according to new figures published today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). The data reveals that 70,971 cars rolled off production lines in the month, down -44.5 per cent year on year. Reasons for this are cited as factory shutdowns, rescheduled to mitigate against the expected uncertainty of a 29 March Brexit, took effect in many plants across the UK. Domestic and overseas manufacturing markets fell by -43.7 per cent and -44.7 per cent respectively as most volume car manufacturers brought forward, and extended, production stoppages normally scheduled for the summer holiday period.
The shift in shutdown, which cannot now be repeated for an October 31 deadline, was part of a raft of “costly and ongoing” contingency measures, including stockpiling, training for new customs procedures and rerouting of logistics, said the SMMT.
April marked the 11th straight month of decline for car making, which exacerbated the underlying downward trend, due largely to slowing demand in key international markets, including the EU, China, and the US, as well as at home.
So far this year, 127,240 fewer cars have been built compared with the same period in 2018 – down -22.4 per cent.
The decline in volumes is expected to ease by the end of the year, as new models are introduced and production lines remain active over usual summer month shutdown if the UK leaves the EU with a favourable deal.
However, the latest independent outlook suggests output will still be down some -10.5 per cent on 2018 levels.
A ‘no deal’ Brexit, however, could exacerbate this decline, with the threat of border delays, production stoppages and additional costs compromising competitiveness.
Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “Today’s figures are evidence of the vast cost and upheaval Brexit uncertainty has already wrought on UK automotive manufacturing businesses and workers.
“Prolonged instability has done untold damage, with the fear of ‘no deal’ holding back progress, causing investment to stall, jobs to be lost and undermining our global reputation.
“This is why ‘no deal’ must be taken off the table immediately and permanently, so industry can get back to the business of delivering for the economy and keeping the UK at the forefront of the global technology race.”
Rebecca Long Bailey, shadow business secretary, said: “These alarming figures which show output halving are stark warnings of what could come from a hard right Tory leader crashing the UK out of Europe with no deal.
“The UK car industry is being undermined by this incompetent government and its threats of a no deal.
“Their mishandling of Brexit has created prolonged uncertainty, and they have simply failed to engage with the domestic challenges facing the industry such as electrification.
“The industry needs certainty and the Government must work with trade unions to produce a long term strategy for the sector.”
A Business Department spokesman said: “A number of large automotive manufacturers did see planned production shutdowns during this period.
“The Government wants to see the UK automotive sector continue to grow and attract further investment.
“Through our Modern Industrial Strategy we continue to invest in the future of our automotive industry, including £1 billion for research and development into cleaner vehicles, and the Faraday Battery Challenge to develop the next generation of car battery technologies in the UK.”