Brexit Threatens UK Auto Tech Future

Continuing falls in UK car production owing to Brexit uncertainties are calling into question the nation’s potential to keep pace with future automotive technology.

That’s the fear expressed by the UK’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) in revealing a further alarming slump in new car production. It reported UK car production dropped 15.5% in May, with 21,239 fewer units manufactured in the month.

Overall output has now fallen for 12 months in a row and down 21.0% since January with eight in every 10 cars made shipped abroad, illustrating the vital importance of free and frictionless trade. The society stated demand both at home and abroad fell by double-digits as softening in the UK and key global markets, and the effects of model changes, caused the negative performance to continue.

In the month, manufacturing for domestic buyers fell by 25.9%, while overseas orders were down 12.6%. In the year to date, UK car production is down with just 557,295 new models rolling off production lines, almost 150,000 fewer compared with the same point in 2018. To some extent, this is being blamed on the decision by certain manufacturers to bring forward summer shutdowns to April in anticipation of the expected March date for the UK to leave the EU.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “12 consecutive months of decline for UK car manufacturing is a serious concern and underlines yet again the importance of securing a Brexit deal quickly. The sector is facing multiple seismic challenges simultaneously: technological, environmental and economic. The ongoing political instability and uncertainty over our future overseas trade relationships, most notably with Europe, is not helping and, whilst the industry’s fundamentals remain strong, a brighter future is only possible if we secure a deal that can help us regain our reputation as an attractive location for automotive investment. No deal is not an option.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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