THE number of cars built in the UK fell to its lowest level in almost a decade in 2019, new figures published today reveal – with a further decline expected this year.
Production was down by 14.2 per cent to 1,303,135 vehicles – the lowest since 2010, when 1.27m were made – amid structural changes in the industry, weak confidence in the UK, slower demand overseas and Brexit-related issues.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said factory shutdowns last spring and autumn, timed to deal with expected disruption from leaving the EU, had a ‘marked effect’.
Production for UK car buyers fell by 12.3 per cent to 247,138 and by 14.7 per cent to 1,055,997 for export, although overseas orders accounted for more than four out of five cars built in UK factories.
Shipments to European Union countries fell by 11.1 per cent last year, but the bloc remains the industry’s most important market, with its share of exports increasing by two per cent to 54.8 per cent, said the SMMT.
Exports to other countries also fell – by 26 per cent to China, 17 per cent to Japan and almost 10 per cent to the United States.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes repeated the industry’s call for a free trade agreement that includes no tariffs, to help maintain jobs and car-making in the UK.
Around 160,000 workers are employed by car manufacturers in this country, but decisions on the future of factories remain on hold as firms wait for details of a post-Brexit trade deal.
Hawes said: ‘The fall of UK car manufacturing to its lowest level in almost a decade is of grave concern.
‘Every country in the world wants a successful automotive sector as it is a driver of trade, productivity and jobs.
‘Given the uncertainty the sector has experienced, it is essential we re-establish our global competitiveness, and that starts with an ambitious free trade agreement with Europe – one that guarantees all automotive products can be bought and sold without tariffs or additional burdens.
‘This will boost manufacturing, avoid costly price rises and maintain choice for UK consumers.
‘Negotiations will be challenging but all sides stand to gain and this sector is up for it.’
Hawes said he hoped uncertainty over a trade deal would end within months, and stressed the need for the best possible outcome for the motor industry.
The SMMT has predicted that leaving the EU without a deal could add £1,500 to the price of an average new car. Tariffs would hit the price of components, which move several times between the UK and the continent.
The latest independent outlook downgrades expected production this year to 1.27 million cars.
Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire