British car production declined for a fifth consecutive month in January, but an increase in overseas orders gave the struggling sector some cause for cheer after a challenging 2019.
According to new data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), output fell 2.1 per cent on a month-by in the first month of the new decade.
Factories turned out 118,314 units in January, the fifth successive month of decline, with the majority – 82.7 per cent – built for export worldwide.
UK orders fell 23.9 per cent due to continued weak consumer confidence, meaning that overall production in January hit its lowest total in nine years.
The rare bright spark came from export production, which has been decline recently due to a diminished appetite worldwide.
Rising demand in key European and Asian markets saw overseas orders rise 4.1 per cent to 97,870, largely due to the appeal of new models coming to market for certain brands.
In all, the figures show that car production fell in the UK for 19 out of the last 20 weeks.
The SMMT’s chief executive Mike Hawes called on the government to strike a free trade deal with Europe which would provide a much-needed boost to the UK car market:
“Exports are the bedrock for UK car manufacturing so a rise in January exports is welcome following recent declining demand in overseas markets.
“These figures, however, still give great cause for concern, with another month of falling car production driven by a lack of confidence and corresponding weak demand in the UK.
“The upcoming Budget is an opportunity for the government to provide supportive measures to stimulate the market, but the biggest boost would be the agreement of an ambitious free trade deal with Europe. This would end the ongoing uncertainty and help the UK to recover its hard-won reputation as a great place for automotive investment.”