Export demand for British-made cars has collapsed as UK factory output slumped again in recent weeks.
Despite lockdowns ending, latest figures show that little more than 1,000 cars a day have been rolling off British production lines, when not so long ago average annual volumes 4,500 a day.
Industry data showed a 27 per cent year-on-year drop in production in August down to 37,000, putting the country on course for its worst annual performance, of below a million, in decades. Production levels in recent months have been at 1950s levels before the take-off in the 1960s of mass-market Mini, Vauxhall and Ford models from British plants.
Worse, the detailed figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders revealed that while cars for the domestic market stayed steady year-on-year, vehicles for export slumped by 32 per cent.
Exports to trading partners that traditionally have loved Britain’s output of Mini, Range Rover, Jaguar, Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Aston Martin cars have collapsed. Exports to America are down by 65 per cent and to China by 58 per cent. Sales to Australian buyers have evaporated by 75 per cent.
“While not the only factor at play, the impact of the semiconductor shortage on manufacturing cannot be overstated. Carmakers and their suppliers are battling to keep production lines rolling, with constraints expected to continue well into 2022 and possibly beyond,” Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said. “Job support schemes such as furlough have proven such a lifeline to automotive businesses, yet its cessation today comes at the worst time, with the industry still facing Covid-related stoppages which are damaging the sector and threatening the supply chain in particular. Other countries have extended their support; we need the UK to do likewise.”