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UK car production could fall by 200,000 units in 2020 due to Coronavirus

SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes

UK car  manufacturers could produce over 200,000 fewer cars in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 coronavirus-prompted factory closures, the SMMT has revealed.

Production volumes declined 0.8% in February as exports to the US and Europe “fell substantially” in the month before the virus gripped Europe, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said in a statement issued today (March 27).

But the industry body warned that the impact of coronavirus had yet to be felt, stating that initial impact analysis suggests coronavirus could wipe more than 200,000 units off UK’s output in 2020, leaving a fully-year production total of just under 1.1 million – a fall of 18%.

SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes, 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.”

Monthly manufacturing sector data published by the industry body revealed that production volumes declined by 1,033 units year-on-year last month to leave the sector 1.5% down year-to-date.

In total, 122,171 vehicles rolled off UK car production lines last month as output for domestic market rose 7.8% and exports declined by 3.1% to 94,999.

The SMMT said in its monthly car production report that, although combined EU demand rallied (up 3.6%), exports to the US and Asia “fell substantially”.

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.

Among the most recent plant closures, announced this week, were those of the Aston Martin, McLaren Automotive and Morgan.

Commenting on the Government fiscal measures that have been put in place to support businesses and employees through the coronavirus lockdown period, Hawes added: “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.”

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