UK car production fell 9.1% year on year in 2018, while automotive investment almost halved, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
UK car plants produced 1.52 million cars in 2018, the lowest figure in five years. Cars made and sold in the UK fell 16.3% while exports dropped 7.3%. Eight in ten cars made in the UK are exported.
The decline is being blamed on regulatory changes and diesel policy uncertainty, plus slumps in demand in both China and Europe. Declining consumer and business confidence as a result of Brexit is another major factor that was cited.
“The bottom line is that it’s a deeply depressing figure," said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. "Product cycles always have an effect. WLTP [emissions changes] affected production. Diesel uncertainty - not just in the UK but also in Europe, but particularly Germany and France - was a factor.
“Furthermore, there is falling business and consumer confidence here and elsewhere, and UK manufacturers are exposed to the global market.”
Meanwhile, investment in the UK automotive industry plummeted by 46.5% to £588.6 million. It is the first time since 2012 that investment has been less than £1 billion. Firms announcing investments in 2018 included Aston Martin and car seating and electrical company Lear.
Hawes said: “The most alarming figure [here] is around automotive investment. It has effectively stalled. The manufacturers need to make underlying investments but a lot of that is on hold until we see what the future is. They are saying: ‘Do we have the confidence to invest in that plant when there is this [Brexit] uncertainty?’”