Car manufacturers report drop in vehicle production for ninth month in a row - prompting 'wakeup' call over no-deal Brexit and 'demonisation of diesel'

Car production has fallen for the ninth month in a row amid declining demand in the UK and overseas countries, new figures reveal.

Thursday, 28th March 2019, 7:17 am
Updated Thursday, 28th March 2019, 7:23 am
Picture by PA

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said the continued reduction should be a "wake-up call" to anyone who believes the industry could survive a no-deal Brexit without "serious damage".

Recent months have seen Nissan announce it will not build the new X-Trail model at its Sunderland plant, and the news the car manufacturer's Infiniti brand will cease production in Wearside as part of a withdrawal from Western Europe by 2020.

Around 123,200 cars were built in February, down by 15.3% on the same month a year ago.

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Production for home and export markets dropped by 11% and 16.4% respectively.

Production for EU countries declined by 14.9%, while exports to China were 55% lower, said the SMMT.

Despite the fall in exports, almost four out of five cars built in the UK were for overseas.

The SMMT said the figures underlined the importance of securing a frictionless trading relationship with the EU.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: "The ninth month of decline for UK car production should be a wake-up 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."

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: "Hard-line no-deal Brexiteers risk driving the jewel in the UK's manufacturing crown off a cliff edge.

"The car industry is facing unprecedented challenges amid weakening global sales and the Government's demonisation of diesel. With investment plummeting, job losses racking up and Honda planning to leave the UK, it's time for the Government to wake up before it's too late.

"We are in the middle of a manufacturing emergency with 130 manufacturing jobs being lost every day in the UK.

"The Government needs to take the Brexit handbrake off its support for the car industry by throwing its full weight behind the fight to persuade Honda to stay in the UK and by properly supporting the transition to electric and alternatively powered vehicles."