The sector is struggling against the tide of Covid-19, Brexit and new legislation.

New figures show British car production fell by almost a fifth in October, as the industry continues to suffer the effects of coronavirus, Brexit and environmental legislation. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) says the poor October performance was largely down to lockdown measures and coronavirus restrictions both at home and abroad.

SMMT data showed just over 110,000 new cars rolled off UK production lines last month, compared with almost 135,000 in the same month of 2019. That's an 18.2-percent drop in production, signalling the continuing turbulence of 2020.

Weak demand from abroad made up a large part of the decline, with the number of cars built for export down by more than 19 percent in October. British demand was also down by 13.6 percent, but with exports making up around 80 percent of all UK car production, the change in demand from abroad had far more impact.

Honda Civic production, Swindon

That said, demand has understandably been low across the board in 2020. Over the first 10 months of the year, just over 743,000 new cars were built in this country. That's a 33.8-percent reduction on the 1.22 million cars built between January 1 and October 31, 2019.

Demand from UK customers, who have so far accounted for 18.8 percent of all UK car production, fell by 36 percent compared with the same period in 2019. The number of cars built for foreign customers, meanwhile, has fallen 33.2 percent this year.

Nissan LEAF production in Sunderland, UK

Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said the industry was being “battered” by the pandemic, Brexit and the upcoming ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars. Hawes’ calls for a free-trade Brexit deal are coming thick and fast, and he issued another plea to negotiators on all sides.

“These figures are yet more bad news for an industry battered by Covid, Brexit and, now, the unprecedented challenge of a complete shift to electrified vehicles in under a decade,” he said. “While the sector has demonstrated its resilience, we need the right conditions to remain competitive both as a manufacturing nation and a progressive market.

Yesterday’s Spending Review recognised the need to invest in a green industrial revolution, but this must be at globally competitive levels and equal to the scale of ambition to keep this sector match fit. Above all, we must have a Brexit deal, one with zero tariffs, zero quotas and rules of origin that benefit existing products and the next generation of zero emission cars, as well as a phase in period that allows this transition to be ‘made in Britain’.”