ONGOING uncertainty over Brexit contributed to car production in Britain almost halving in April, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
New data shows British car plants produced 44.5% fewer cars in April than they did in the same month last year; down from 127,970 cars in April 2018 to 70.971 last month.
The sharp drop is being attributed to a series of temporary factory shutdowns, which were scheduled to coincide with the UK’s original departure date from the European Union on March 29 this year, and reduce the impact any no-deal disruption would have caused.
Due to the costs involved with these contingency measures, the SMMT claims the factory shutdowns “cannot now be repeated” should British car makers face the prospect of another no-deal scenario on October 31.
The output of British car factories has been on a downward trajectory for 12 months, with the last reported growth being a modest 1.3% increase in May 2018. Year-to-date figures from the SMMT also show UK car plants produced 22.4% fewer cars than they did during the first four months of 2018.
Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s 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.”
He added: “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.”
Despite the warnings, the SMMT believes the challenges facing the British car industry could soon start to ease. Subject to the UK’s departure terms with the European Union, the production decline is expected to tail off before the end of the year, and the rescheduled factory shutdowns means car plants can claw back some lost ground during the summer months during which there is often some downtime.