February figures ‘the calm before the storm’

British car manufacturing fell 0.8% in February, but the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has warned of a far more drastic decline to come.

It found that some 122,171 vehicles rolled off production lines in the month, representing a loss of just over 1,000 units compared with February 2019.

However, the figures come at a time of unprecedented challenge for the UK and its automotive industry, with all car manufacturing plants now on shutdown as the country focuses efforts on overcoming the crisis. An initial assessment commissioned by SMMT of the potential impact of these shutdowns suggests a loss of around 200,000 units by the end of 2020, just under 1.1 million – a fall of 18%. However, the impact could be far more severe if the crisis, and therefore shutdowns, were to last for months instead of weeks.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Despite the myriad global challenges the UK automotive industry has faced in recent times, it remains fundamentally strong and February’s figures reflect that.

“However, these figures also reflect the calm before the storm. With UK car plants now effectively on national shutdown and many global markets closed, the outlook is of deep concern. We wholeheartedly welcome government’s extraordinary package of emergency support for businesses and workers, but this must get through to businesses now. If we’re to keep this sector alive and in a position to help Britain get back on its feet, we urgently need funding to be released, additional measures to ease pressure on cashflow and clarity on how employment support measures will work.”