UK car factories saw output shrink by six percent year-on-year during September, according to new figures out this week. Data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows just over 63,000 new cars rolled out of British factory gates last month, down from more than 67,000 in the same month last year.

The news follows four consecutive months of growth for the industry, but a reduction in the number of vehicles built for export markets including the USA, European Union and China drove September’s decline. In spite of increased exports to South Korea, Australia and Turkey, the number of exported vehicles fell 7.4 percent last month.

The number of vehicles built for customers in the UK also fell slightly, down by just under one percent, but that decline amounted to a shortfall of around 130 vehicles. Because exports have accounted for just under 80 percent of all vehicles built in the UK so far this year, the decline in export production accounted for most of the 4,000-vehicle drop in production.

Nissan LEAF production in Sunderland, UK

September’s result means the first nine months of 2022 have seen around 575,000 new cars built in the UK. Of those, 78.6 percent were destined for foreign shores, meaning around 123,000 have stayed here in the UK. Although that’s an increase in the number of cars built for the domestic market – up from 113,000 in the first nine months of 2021 – overall production is down by 12.6 percent.

That’s mainly down to a 16.9-percent reduction in the number of vehicles built for foreign customers. Some 451,000 export vehicles were built in the UK during the first three-quarters of 2022, down from 543,000 during the same period last year.

In light of these figures, the SMMT, which represents car makers and dealers in the UK, has urged the government to ensure “stability” and “competitive investment conditions” in order for the car industry to thrive.

“Billions of pounds and thousands of jobs are dependent on the automotive sector and, increasingly, on electrified vehicle production,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. “Despite the current challenges, our car makers remain resilient and are well placed to ramp up output of the latest, zero emission vehicles which will help drive an economic recovery, create jobs and boost growth.

“Success is not guaranteed, however, and to realise its potential the UK sector must attract new investment – which means creating competitive investment conditions. Stability, combined with a plan that tackles critical skills shortages, delivers regulatory certainty and brings down the cost of energy in the long-term can help put the UK at the forefront of next generation automotive manufacturing.”

Mini Oxford plant