UK car manufacturing drops 16.5% in November as Brexit shutdowns bite

Manufacturing data reveals sharp drop in manufacturing, with previous October Brexit date seeing factories suspend production

November saw a 16.5 per cent decline in the number of cars produced in UK factories, partly due to the number of firms that paused production on 31 October in the expectation that a no-Brexit could create disruption. Some 107,753 cars were made in the UK last month, down from 129,030 in the same month last year.

Production for the domestic market was down 26.6 per cent, while the number of cars built for export – which make up the bulk of UK-built cars – fell by 14.2 per cent.

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The potential for a no-deal Brexit was not the only issue affecting production, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which compiled the data. Depressed domestic market confidence, and reduced overseas demand also played their part in the downturn.

Car plants typically pause production to conduct maintenance on factory robots and production lines, with many, including Toyota, Jaguar Land Rover, and BMW, choosing to coincide these scheduled shutdowns with expected Brexit dates.

But while November’s production figures are unlikely to represent any kind of Christmas present for car manufacturers, they pale into insignificance when compared with April’s data, when the number of cars made here fell by a staggering 44.5 per cent amid previous Brexit preparedness shutdowns, which also proved to be unnecessary.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT highlighted that “UK car production is export-led, so we look forward to working with the new government to deliver an ambitious trade deal with the EU.”

Hawes repeated calls for a tariff-free post-Brexit deal that would “avoid barriers to trade”, adding such a plan  “can be achieved if government and industry work in partnership to re-establish the UK as a great place to invest and ensure that automotive keeps delivering for Britain.”

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