‘Wake-up call for UK’ after nine months of falling car production | Business

Car manufacturers have said their anxiety over Brexit is now “at fever pitch” after latest monthly production figures showed another major decline, with a 15% year-on-year drop in output in February.

The double-digit drop was the ninth consecutive month in which British car manufacturing output has fallen.

The industry blamed declining demand in the UK and in key European and Asian export markets for the continuing slump, which saw just 123,203 vehicles made last month, more than 22,000 fewer than the previous February.

Figures releasedon Thursday by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that production for the domestic market dropped by 11%, while exports fell 16.4%. Exports for China were less than half the level of a year ago.

Around 80% of cars made in Britain are destined for export, more than half of them to the European Union. The demand from the EU, the UK’s biggest customer, fell by 15%.

The SMMT said the figures underlined the importance of securing frictionless trade with Britain’s main trading partner.

The industry has long been vocal in opposing Brexit, and particularly a no-deal departure from the EU, which the SMMT has said would have an “immediate and potentially irreversible impact on cost, productivity and competitiveness”.

The chief executive of the SMMT, Mike Hawes, said: “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.

“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.”

Inward investment in the car industry was halved in 2018, the SMMT reported in January. Britain’s biggest automotive employer, Jaguar Land Rover, which has also been hit hard by declining consumer confidence in diesel vehicles, has confirmed 4,500 job cuts worldwide, with the majority in the UK. Honda announced last month it would close its plant in Swindon.

Unions fighting to keep the UK Honda plant open said the government needed to “wake up”. Unite’s assistant general secretary, Steve Turner, said: “Hardline no-deal Brexiteers risk driving the jewel in the UK’s manufacturing crown off a cliff edge.

“We are in the middle of a manufacturing emergency, with 130 manufacturing jobs being lost every day in the UK.”

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