British car production falls for tenth consecutive month

British car manufacturing declined for the tenth month in a row in March – and industry bosses have warned it could slump to 1980s levels in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

A total of 126,195 cars were built in the UK last month, according to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). That is a 14.4% decline on the 147,505 vehicles produced in March 2018, and brings total output for the first quarter of 2019 to 370,289, a 15.9% drop from last year’s output of 440,530.

The March decline was sharpest in the domestic market, with the 26,873 UK-bound cars representing an 18.1% fall from 2018. Demand for exports, which account for 78.7% of all cars produced in 2019, fell 13.4% in March.

The SMMT also cited new independent production forecasts that said a no-deal Brexit resulting in the UK adopting World Trade Organization rules for an extended period could reduce production to 1.07 million units by 2021, a fall of around 30%. 

The SMMT says those forecasts show that, under a Brexit deal with a sustained transition period maintaining current trade agreements, production would dip to 1.36 million units this year, before rising back to 1.42 million by 2021. That would still be a decline on the 1.52 million units produced in 2018.

SMMT boss Mike Hawes said: “Just a few years ago, industry was on track to produce two million cars by 2020 – a target now impossible with Britain’s reputation as a stable and attractive business environment undermined. All parties must find a compromise urgently so we can set about repairing the damage and diverting energy and investment to the technological challenges that will define the future of the global industry.”