British car manufacturing fell by 15.3% year on year in February, the ninth consecutive month of decline, due a continued fall in demand from both Britain and key export markets.
A total of 123,203 cars were produced in the UK in February, compared with 145,518 in February 2018, according to data produced by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. So far this year, 243,852 cars have been built in this country, a 16.8% year-on-year fall.
Of the cars produced in February, 28,350 were for the UK market – down 11% on the same month last year – with 97,985 exported, a 16.4% decline. It was the ninth consecutive month that demand for home-built cars had declined in the UK.
The decline in cars built for export was particularly driven by the ongoing struggles of the Chinese market, where demand for British cars slumped by 55.6%. Demand in the European Union, where the UK exports most cars to, fell by 14.9%.
With eight of 10 cars in the UK still exported to the EU, SMMT boss Mike Hawes reiterated that the continued decline in manufacturing highlighted the risk of a no-deal Brexit.
Hawes called the figures “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”.
UK car manufacturing levels are likely to be hit further in the coming months, with several plants, including BMW and Mini’s factories, bringing forward annual closures until the period after 29 March, the date Britain was originally due to leave the EU.
While the date Britain leaves the EU is now uncertain, the complexities of car manufacturing means that the production closures are fixed. That raises the prospect of further interruptions to car manufacturing later this year, depending on when – or if – Brexit takes place.