Spring closures put brakes on car production

UK CAR manufacturing fell by almost 10 per cent in May, according to figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), though the industry remains on track for a year of further growth.

The trade association said the 9.8 per cent fall – or 116,655 units – was due to days lost through bank holiday shutdowns at some plants.

The slowdown mirrored a fall of 8.4 per cent in May 2013, and production in the year to date is up 3.5 per cent on last year.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “Prospects… are still bright; new UK-built models will benefit from growing demand across Europe, while significant investments in UK manufacturing operations are moving closer to production readiness.”

Cars made for export, which make up around four-fifths of all cars produced in Britain, fell 10 per cent in the month but are up 4.7 per cent in the year to date. Vehicle output for domestic sale, meanwhile, is down 0.9 per cent this year so far.

The UK car industry has an annual turnover of £60bn, collectively employing 150,000 people. Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan and BMW have moved away from exporting mainly to the EU and are seeking out new markets such as China and India.

Manufacturers such as Nissan are ramping up production of new models ­– and the Japanese firm hopes to produce its luxury Infiniti brand in Sunderland next year.

The SMMT has predicted that UK car manufacturers will surpass the record production levels seen in the 1970s by 2017.

Although manufacturing was down in May, SMMT has reported that sales of British-made cars rose for the 27th month in a row, as demand continued to improve.

A total of 194,032 new cars were registered in May, a 7.7 per cent rise on last year, and sales for 2014 so far have reached 1,058,974 – an increase of 11.6 per cent on the same period a year ago.