Thursday 31 October 2019 12:01 am

Car makers suffer 'another bitterly disappointing month' as Brexit uncertainty maintains grip

The malaise that has gripped Britain’s car makers for the last year deepened in September, as the threat of a no-deal Brexit slammed the brakes on investment and caused production to stall.

Car manufacturing, an industry which has felt the effects of Brexit uncertainty more sharply than most, fell 3.8 per cent last month to 122,256 vehicles, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

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Production for UK customers fell 5.1 per cent, amid the dampening effect that long-term political and economic uncertainty has had on the market that was once regarded as the jewel in the crown of Britain’s historic manufacturing industry. Car makers still account for nearly 15 per cent of UK goods exports, and support 823,000 jobs across the country.

It rounds off a tumultuous first three quarters of 2019 for manufacturers, who have produced more than one-sixth fewer cars so far this year than at the same point in 2018.

The downbeat figures come at a time when the global automotive industry is under growing pressure to pour cash into electric vehicle technology, as it fights to meet strict European emissions regulations that come into place next year.

Brexit was not the only roadblock for the industry. Key markets abroad, such as mainland Europe and China, continued to buy fewer cars, with exports falling 3.4 per cent last month compared to September 2018.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said September had been “another bitterly disappointing month”.

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Car makers had poured cash into mitigating the threat of a no-deal Brexit, he said, money which “would have better been spent in meeting the technological challenges facing the global industry”.

“A general election may ultimately provide some certainty, but does not yet remove the spectre of no-deal which will continue to inhibit the UK industry’s prospects unless we can agree and implement a new, ambitious and permanent relationship that safeguards free and frictionless trade.”