Model changes and new emission standards blamed for fall, which saw 35 per cent fewer cars built for UK market in July
The number of cars made in the UK fell by 11 per cent in July, with a total of 121,051 new cars built on British shores – down from 135,954 in July 2017.
The fall was largely driven by a sharp drop in domestic demand, with 35 per cent fewer UK-made cars going to UK homes. The number of cars built for export fell by 4.2 per cent, with 101,637 cars heading to foreign climes.
• Brexit and diesel concerns drive car production down
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which compiled the figures, says output was affected by a number of factors, including model changes and preparation for the introduction of tough new WLTP emissions standards.
The SMMT also clarified that July 2017 was a particularly strong month for UK car manufacturing, and the industry was “broadly” on track to meet 2018 expectations.
Commenting on the figures, Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said that while UK car manufacturing is “undoubtedly feeling the effects” of domestic uncertainty, drawing conclusions from one month’s figures “requires a health warning”, as “the bigger picture is complex and month by month fluctuations are inevitable.”
And with 84 per cent of cars built in the UK in July headed to foreign buyers, Hawes reiterated calls for “political and economic clarity at home, and the continuation of beneficial trading arrangements with the EU and other key markets.”
UK car manufacturing down 3 per cent in 2017
Last year saw 1,671,166 vehicles roll off UK production lines, down three per cent on the record year of 2016 when the industry achieved its highest production numbers in 17 years.
• Best selling cars in the UK
The SMMT blames the three per cent drop in manufacturing output on a fall in domestic demand and economic uncertainty – domestic vehicle registrations were down 5.7 per cent last year, with production earmarked for the UK market down by 9.8 per cent.
Of the 1.67 million vehicles built, 79.9 per cent were exported with the European Union being the biggest buyer of UK built vehicles. Exports were down 1.1 per cent compared to last year.
The SMMT says the Government needs to urgently reach a post-Brexit transition deal: “This means maintaining the UK’s membership of the single market and customs union and addressing critical details that, if ignored, could have a damaging effect on the industry’s competitiveness.”
While overall vehicle manufacturing was down, engine production in the UK reached record high levels with 2.72 million produced, up 6.9 per cent on 2016. The SMMT says the growth is a result of recent investment into low-emission petrol and diesel engines in the UK. Of the 8,000 people employed in engine production, 3,550 are directly involved in diesel production.
However, the trade body warned that continued uncertainty over diesel policy in the UK will impact the sector. SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes said: “Concern over the future of diesel is having an effect on total production.”
• Motor industry calls for ‘frictionless’ Brexit
While the engine manufacturing sector has benefitted from recent investment, the SMMT said overall investment in the UK’s automotive sector is down. Last year saw £1.1 billion invested in the UK’s automotive sector, down from £1.66 billion in 2016 and £2.5 billion three years ago. The SMMT says part of the drop in investment can be explained by Brexit, with manufacturers and businesses delaying investment until the UK’s trade relationship with the EU is confirmed. Hawes added that the though the drop in investment is “significant” investment is “cyclical.”
Hawes said: “The UK automotive industry continues to produce cars that are in strong demand across the world and it’s encouraging to see growth in many markets. However, we urgently need clarity on the transitional arrangements for Brexit, arrangements which must retain all the current benefits else around 10% of our exports could be threatened overnight.
“We compete in a global race to produce the best cars and must continue to attract investment to remain competitive. Whilst such investment is often cyclical, the evidence is that it is now stalling so we need rapid progress on trade discussions to safeguard jobs and stimulate future growth.”
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