UK car manufacturing slumps 45% in April: SMMT

UK car manufacturing output plummeted by almost half in April, with production down 44.5% year on year at 70,971 units, according to figures published Thursday by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

“Factory shutdowns, rescheduled to mitigate against the expected uncertainty of a March 29 Brexit, took effect in many plants across the UK,” SMMT said.

April’s dismal performance, the 11th-straight month of decline, exacerbated the underlying downward trend, due largely to slowing demand in key international markets, including the EU, China and the US, as well as at home, the group added.

The latest figures “are evidence of the vast cost and upheaval Brexit uncertainty has already wrought on UK automotive manufacturing businesses and workers,” SMMT’s chief executive, Mike Hawes, said in a statement.

“Prolonged instability has done untold damage, with the fear of ‘no deal’ holding back progress, causing investment to stall, jobs to be lost and undermining our global reputation,” Hawes said. “This is why ‘no deal’ must be taken off the table immediately and permanently.”

Manufacturing for domestic and overseas markets fell 43.7% and 44.7%, respectively, from April 2018 levels, as most volume manufacturers brought forward, and extended, production stoppages normally scheduled for the summer holiday period.

For January-April, output was down 22.4% year on year, with similarly large percentage falls in production for the UK and export.

Provided the UK leaves the EU with “a favorable deal and substantial transition period,” and notwithstanding any escalation of global trade tensions, the decline in volumes is expected to ease by the end of the year, SMMT said.

However, it added, “the latest independent outlook suggests output will still be down some 10.5% on 2018 levels,” with a ‘no deal’ Brexit likely to exacerbate this decline.

— Andy Blamey