Car production plummeted last month as manufacturers shut down their factories to avoid Brexit disruption.
Just 70,971 vehicles were made in the UK in April, down 44.5 per cent on a year earlier, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
The fall was largely driven by firms shutting down for several days during the period when Britain was supposed to leave the European Union.
Slow down: Just 70,971 vehicles were made in the UK in April, down 44.5 per cent on a year earlier, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders
Jaguar Land Rover halted operations at factories in a move designed to prevent chaos if there were delays at the borders caused by a No Deal Brexit, as did BMW with their Mini plant in Oxford and PSA Group with their Vauxhall facilities in the UK.
Instead, the UK’s departure has been delayed until Halloween. Car companies typically halt assembly lines for a few days each year for maintenance.
But this year, a string of firms decided to do so at the same time to coincide with the planned departure from the EU at the end of March.
The Brexit disruption came on top of dwindling demand for diesel cars amid concerns over high pollution levels.
Production has now been falling in Britain for 11 straight months.
A slow April means UK vehicle outputs are now down by 22.4% for the year so far
Experts warned that the industry cannot afford another shut down in October in preparation for Brexit
Mike Hawes, of the SMMT, said: ‘Today’s figures are evidence of the vast cost and upheaval Brexit uncertainty has already wrought on UK automotive manufacturing businesses and workers.
‘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.
‘This is why No Deal must be taken off the table immediately and permanently, so industry can get back to the business of delivering for the economy and keeping the UK at the forefront of the global technology race.’
Jaguar Land Rover halted operations at factories in a move designed to prevent chaos if there were delays at the borders caused by a No Deal Brexit
BMW also scheduled a close down at the Mini facility in Oxford as part of Brexit preparations that were not needed due to the delay
Industry insiders have called for some perspective.
Stuart Apperley, director and head of UK automotive at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: ‘On the face of it these figures make for stark reading, but things may not be as bleak as they first appear.
‘A significant dip in output has always been on the cards for April as a result of the planned summer factory shutdowns being brought forward.
‘With this in mind, we expect a clearer picture to emerge in the coming months when the impact of the shutdowns has worked its way through.’
Despite this, Apperley conceded that the industry remains particularly susceptible to any vulnerabilities the wider economy faces.
‘It also has its own challenges – from record levels of stockpiling to falling confidence affecting demand on the continent, and China’s continued slump in sales,’ he added.
Justin Benson, head of automotive at KPMG UK warned that the industry cannot afford a repeat in October when Britain’s divorce from the EU is expected to take place.
‘Whilst a significant fall in production was expected and planned for – in anticipation of the UK’s potential departure from the EU on 29 March – these sorts of figures cannot be repeated in October without serious implications for the sector’s output,’ he said in a statement.
‘The key concern is the effect on Britain’s competitiveness and reputation, considering around 80 per cent of cars produced in the UK are exported.
‘We are already seeing German and other EU countries moving their orders for manufactured goods from the UK to companies in other EU countries in readiness for Brexit, so damage is already being done.
‘I can’t stress enough that the automotive industry needs stability, and it needs it now.’
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