UK car production fell to its lowest level in almost a decade in 2019, new figures show.
Vehicle outputs were down 14.2 per cent to 1.3million cars – the lowest since 2010, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has revealed.
Structural changes in the industry, weak confidence in the UK, slower demand overseas, and Brexit-related issues were all blamed by the motoring body for the slowdown at car plants across the country. And it said it expects outputs to shrink again this year.
Shrinking sector: UK car production fell by 14.2% in 2019. Some 1.3m new models came off assembly lines last year, down from 1.5m in 2018, official figures confirmed today
A total of 1,303,135 new cars came off UK assembly lines in 2019, down from 1,519,440 the year previous.
The SMMT said factory shutdowns last spring and autumn – timed to deal with expected disruption from leaving the EU – had a ‘marked effect’ on production and had weighed down annual outputs both home and abroad.
Production for the home market fell by 12.3 per cent to 247,000 units. Though the bigger impact was felt by shrinking export demand.
Outputs of cars built for foreign markets fell by 14.7 per cent, from 1,237,608 in 2018 to 1,055,997 in 2019.
Despite this dip, overseas orders still accounted for more than four out of five cars built in UK factories.
Shipments to European Union countries fell by 11.1 per cent last year, but the bloc remains the industry’s most important market, with its share of exports increasing by 2 per cent to 54.8 per cent, said the SMMT.
Exports to other countries fell, by 26 per cent to China, 17 per cent to Japan and almost 10 per cent to the United States, with the latter remaining the UK’s second largest export market (representing 18.9 per cent of export volumes).
The SMMT said vehicle production had fallen to the lowest level for almost a decade
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, repeated the industry’s call for a free trade agreement which includes no tariffs, to help maintain jobs and car making in the UK.
Around 160,000 workers are employed by car manufacturers in this country, but decisions on the future of factories remain on hold as firms wait for details of a post-Brexit trade deal.
Mr Hawes said: ‘The fall of UK car manufacturing to its lowest level in almost a decade is of grave concern.
‘Every country in the world wants a successful automotive sector as it is a driver of trade, productivity and jobs.
‘Given the uncertainty the sector has experienced, it is essential we re-establish our global competitiveness and that starts with an ambitious free trade agreement with Europe, one that guarantees all automotive products can be bought and sold without tariffs or additional burdens.
‘This will boost manufacturing, avoid costly price rises and maintain choice for UK consumers.
‘Negotiations will be challenging but all sides stand to gain and this sector is up for it.’
Jaguar Land Rover remained the UK’s biggest car maker in 2019, outputs at the brand’s three plants fell by 14.3%
The Qashqai was the most-built UK car in 2019, followed by the Mini. Production of the Toyota Corolla only started part way through last year
Nissan Sunderland celebrated producing its 10 millionth model last year – that car was a Qashqai (pictured)
While Jaguar Land Rover remained the UK’s biggest car maker in 2019, outputs at the brand’s three plants fell by 14.3 per cent to 385,917 units.
Nissan Sunderland retained its position in second, with 346,535 vehicles produced – down 21.6 per cent year-on-year. The Qashqai was the most built of all models in the UK in 2019.
Honda in Swindon, which will close next year, had the biggest decline in production, down 32.2 per cent, while Toyota Burnaston – home of the new Corolla family hatchback – was the only mainstream manufacturer to post improving outputs (up 14.7 per cent.
Honda production at Swindon fell by 32% in 2019 with the plant due to be closed in 2021
Jaguar Land Rover retained its moniker as the UK’s biggest car maker, despite a decline in production
Mr Hawes said he hopes uncertainty over a trade deal will end within months, stressing the need for the best possible outcome for the motor industry.
The SMMT has predicted that leaving the EU without a deal could add £1,500 to the price of an average new car.
Tariffs would hit the price of components, which move several times between the UK and the EU.
The latest independent outlook downgrades expected production this year to 1.27 million cars – a year-on-year decline of 2 per cent.
While total manufacturing outputs fell, the UK’s renowned specialist car sector bucked the trend with growing demand for some of the world’s most iconic and desirable brands boosting outputs by 16.2 per cent in the year.
Other good news was the rise in production of alternatively fuelled cars, jumping by 34.7 per cent to 192,304 units, as global appetite for the UK’s electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid offering continues to rise.
SAVE MONEY ON MOTORING
Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.