UK car manufacturing fell 44 per cent last month compared with a year earlier as domestic orders dried up and exports fell, in the second worst month since car plants restarted after lockdown
Just 51,039 cars rolled off British production lines, down from 92,153 in August 2019, because of falling demand, and in part because the previous year was boosted by several plants working during the summer.
August output for UK buyers fell 58 per cent to just 7,795 vehicles, in what is typically a quiet month, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
The number of cars made for export fell 41 per cent to 73,443 cars, compared with the same month a year earlier.
With coronavirus cases rising and stricter socialising measures in place across the UK, the industry is worried about the impact on the sales it desperately needs to maintain factory levels.
“Companies are bracing for a second wave, with tighter social and business restrictions making the industry’s attempts to restart even more challenging,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive.
On Thursday Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, announced a job support scheme to try to help businesses keep employees on their payrolls once the furlough scheme ceases at the end of October.
Mr Hawes said: “The UK [car] industry is fundamentally strong and agile, and the measures announced yesterday by the chancellor are welcome and essential, although we await more details of how they will work for all businesses and crucially large manufacturers.
“Companies need to retain skilled jobs and maintain cash flow and we may need more support to boost business and consumer confidence later this year.”
He added that flexible support measures, which allow businesses to taper production to changing demand levels, are required by manufacturers and dealers.
August’s drop, which was steeper than the 20 per cent fall reported by factories in July, was partly because of a stronger performance a year earlier.
In 2019, several car factories closed during April in expectation of Brexit, to give them time to adjust to new trading conditions.
Many of the shuttered facilities then worked throughout August, a period when they would otherwise run reduced production to allow staff a summer holiday.
Yet UK car plants between January and August produced 40 per cent fewer cars than in the same months a year earlier, including several weeks of complete stoppages during the first lockdown in March and April.
The SMMT calculated that at least 13,500 jobs have been cut across the UK car sector this year, with warnings from the body that up to one in six positions may be at risk in the future.