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'No future' for volume car making in UK

Britain's days as a volume car manufacturing nation are numbered while it remains outside the euro zone, according to a new report from an automotive industry consultant.

The study's findings coincide with the publication of National Office of Statistics figures which show UK home production rose by almost 17% in April, although total car production for the year was down by more than 10% as a result of a decline in export orders.

AT Kearney's “The Future of the UK Automotive Industry” - based on economic modelling and interviews with industry experts - blames Britain's euro policy as a principal factor in a long term shift away from volume to prestige and niche products. Citing expanding Jaguar and Land Rover as world market brands less vulnerable to European currency costs, it predicts that premium car production will have doubled to more than 500,000 vehicles by 2004.

And in a section headed “Volume car assembly has no future in the UK” it concludes that where volume plants already exist they will only remain if supplied from an “unnatural” sourcing footprint biased towards continental Europe and serve a market that is biased towards the UK.

“Unless these conditions apply, the long term trend will be the closure of these plants or their conversion to premium car production,” it adds.

A spokesman for the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders dismissed general volume plant closure fears as “simplistic” but added Britain's entry into the euro would be seen as a practical step for manufacturers and suppliers.

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