UK car production figures sink for worst September in 25 years

Car manufacturing fell by five per cent to 114,732 units – the worst September for the industry since 1995

Car production in the UK suffered its worst September for a quarter of a century last month, with Covid-19 and ongoing political and economic uncertainty causing the decline.

Just 114,732 cars rolled off production lines in September 2020 – a decline of exactly five per cent from the same month last year and the worst September since 1995, when 111,182 cars were manufactured in the same month.

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Production for overseas markets declined 9.7 per cent in September 2020 to 87,533 units, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), as demand from China, the EU and the US fell by 1.2 per cent, 3.3 per cent and 30 per cent respectively.

There was a 14.5 per cent increase in car production for the UK market, largely as a result of new model introductions, but this was not enough to offset the fall in exports.

In the year-to-date, UK car production is down 35.9 per cent on 2019, with 632,824 cars having been built so far. The latest forecasts suggest around 885,000 cars will be manufactured in UK factories in 2020 – if so, it will be the first time volumes have dipped below the one million mark since 2009, when 999,460 cars were built.

Some positives did come out of the month, though – EV production increased 37 per cent year-on-year, with 76.6 per cent of electric cars made in Britain exported. 

The SMMT warns that if the Brexit transition period ends without a final deal and with the implementation of WTO (World Trade Organisation) tariffs, the cost of UK-made EVs exported to the EU could increase by an average of £2,000 per car.

The SMMT also warned that surging cases of Covid-19 in Europe and continuing local lockdowns across the UK could be a major hindrance to any last-minute push to increase car production in the final quarter of 2020.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said: “These figures are yet more grim reading for UK automotive as coronavirus continues to wreak havoc both at home and in key overseas markets.

“With the end of transition now just 63 days away, the fact that both sides are back around the table is a relief but we need negotiators to agree a deal urgently, one that prioritises automotive, enhances innovation and supports the industry in addressing the global threat of climate change.

“With production already strained, the additional blow of no deal would be devastating for the sector, its workers and their families.”

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