THE number of cars built in the UK has reached a 17-year high, but investment fell last year amid uncertainty following the Brexit vote, new figures show.
Around 1.7 million cars rolled off production lines last year, an increase of 8.5 per cent over the previous year, with exports reaching a record 1.35 million.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said global demand for British-built cars increased by more than 10 per cent, leading to four of every five cars built in this country being exported to one of 160 markets.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes, pictured, predicted that car production will reach an all-time high before 2020, but he sounded a note of caution after revealing that investment by the industry fell to £1.66 billion last year, compared with £2.5 billion in previous years.
There were signs that firms were delaying decisions because of the greater uncertainty sparked by the referendum decision, he said.
The viability of the car industry was at stake, said Hawes, adding that if tariffs were imposed after the UK leaves the single market, the price of cars could increase by £1,500.
‘We don’t want tariffs – it’s a red line for the car industry. There would be an impact on demand and jobs – that’s a cliff-edge we want to avoid,’ he said.
‘We want trade deals but they must be the right deals, not rushed deals. Failure to do so could damage UK automotive manufacturing beyond repair.’
Most of last year’s growth in car production was because of continuing economic recovery across Europe.
Exports to EU countries increased by 7.5 per cent to 758,680, accounting for half of all exports.
There was also a big rise in car exports to the United States with increases too in the number of vehicles sent to Turkey, Japan and Canada.
The UK has 15 car plants, directly employing 169,000 workers and 814,000 people across the sector.
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