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UK car production falls for ninth month running

UK car manufacturing tumbled 15.3% in February, marking the ninth consecutive month of downturn.

BMW has indicated a no-deal Brexit could spell the end of Mini production in the UK

BMW has warned that a no-deal Brexit could spell the end of Mini production in the UK

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) – accompanied by a call for cross-party consensus on ruling out a no-deal Brexit – show a total of 123,203 units were produced last month, with production for the home and export markets down year-on-year by 11.0% and 16.4% respectively.

Year-to-date, overall output decreased 16.8%. While home demand fell 8.0%, the majority of the decline came from the fall in manufacturing for export, which was down by 18.9% due to weakening demand in key markets; exports to China were down more than half (55.6%) and cars destined for the US down 2.8%. Meanwhile, production for the EU – the UK’s biggest customer – declined by 14.9%.

Although exports have fallen in recent months, overseas demand still accounts for nearly eight in 10 cars produced – more than half of which are for the EU. As such, the SMMT continues to highlight the importance of securing a “truly free and frictionless” future trading relationship with the UK’s most important trading partner.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “The ninth month of decline for UK car production should be a wakeup 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. 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.”

His comments come three weeks after BMW warned that it may shift Mini production out of the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit; the latest in a long line of cautions from carmakers with UK operations who are concerned about the risks presented by a no-deal Brexit; in a survey late last year three-quarters of carmakers in the UK said a ‘no-deal’ Brexit would hit their business, impacting on profitability and future investment.

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.