Hitting the brakes: UK car production slumps 18 per cent from late Easter and BMW strikes

Rebecca Smith
Strikes have been affecting production at BMW too, including by Mini workers at its Cowley plant
Strikes have been affecting production at BMW too, including by Mini workers at its Cowley plant (Source: Getty)

The late Easter hasn't just been a headache for retailers unveiling trading updates.

Now, the late Easter bank holiday has been partly blamed for the hefty drop in car production last month. It fell 18.2 per cent in April compared to the same time a year ago, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

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A total of 122,116 cars rolled off UK production lines last month, compared to 149,324 in April 2016.

“Car production fell significantly in April due to the later Easter bank holiday weekend which reduced the number of active production days that month and also due to unplanned production adjustments," said the SMMT's chief executive, Mike Hawes.

Strike action has also been taking place across BMW plants in a row over pensions, with workers downing tools at both the Mini plant in Cowley and the Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood, disrupting production. More walkouts which had been planned have since been suspended as workers mull a fresh offer from the German firm.

There was a drop in new car sales in April too, with SMMT data from earlier this month showing registrations for new cars dropped 19.8 per cent as motorists brought forward purchases to avoid new vehicle excise duty rates, which came into force on 1 April.

Despite the road bumps, the SMMT said demand from overseas buyers continues to drive growth, up 3.5 per cent this year, offsetting a fall at home of seven per cent.

Hawes said: "Overall, British car manufacturing remains in good health with the production outlook still very positive and significant new models due to go into UK production shortly."

In total, 76.8 per cent of all cars made in the UK since January have been shipped abroad, with the majority going into the EU.

Hawes reiterated warnings made by the SMMT regarding the future of the sector and the need to avoid barriers in the wake of Brexit.

To guarantee future growth and investment into our industry and its vital supply chain, however, we need the next government to safeguard the conditions that have made us globally competitive, keeping us open and trading and delivering an ambitious industrial strategy for our sector.

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