May marked the 12th consecutive month of decline for the UK car manufacturing industry as production fell by more than 15 percent.
According to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), just over 116,000 cars were built on UK shores last month. That’s down 15.5 percent on the 137,274 built in the UK last May.
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Much of the decline was fuelled in part by sluggish demand in the domestic market, with the number of vehicles built for British customers in May down from almost 30,000 last year to a little over 22,000 in 2019 - a decline of almost 26 percent. In comparison, the number of cars built for foreign markets also fell, but not quite as drastically. Almost 94,000 vehicles were built for foreign customers last month, down 12.6 percent on the same month in 2018.
As a result, the industry seemed more dependent on foreign markets this month than it was a year ago. Back in May 2018, exports accounted for about 78 percent of vehicles built in Britain, but that figure now stands at almost 81 percent.
It’s a situation that’s becoming routine for the car industry in the UK. Not only did May mark the 12th month of decline, but the first five months of 2019 have now seen production fall by 21 percent compared with the same period last year. In total, more than 557,000 cars have been built in Britain, but that’s down from almost 706,000 built over the same time in 2018.
However, despite the sharp fall in domestic demand in May, the year so far shows that production of vehicles for domestic and export markets are falling at a similar rate. The number of vehicles built for UK customers is down 20.1 percent on the same period in 2018, while the number of export vehicles is down 21.3 percent.
Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said the decline was a worry for the industry and that ongoing uncertainty needed resolution for the sector to thrive.
“Twelve consecutive months of decline for UK car manufacturing is a serious concern and underlines yet again the importance of securing a Brexit deal quickly,” he said. “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, while 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.”