United Kingdom

UK's domestic car market in the doldrums as over 80% of motors made on home turf end up overseas

The production of cars within Britain for the domestic market dropped by nearly a quarter last month on a year ago, new data shows. 

While the number of cars being manufactured for sale abroad grew over 4 per cent, the total number of cars being produced fell by 2.1 per cent, marking the fifth consecutive month of declines. 

Overall production levels are now at the lowest level they have been for nine years, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders confirmed.  

Over 80 per cent of cars made in Britain are now destined for overseas markets and the number of cars manufactured in the country has fallen in 19 out of the last 20 months. 

Exports on the up: Over 80 per cent of cars made in Britain are now destined for overseas markets

A year ago, the proportion of cars being made in Britain and then exported to overseas markets was just shy of 78 per cent.  

Desperate to revive the country's ailing car production market, the SMMT's boss, Mike Hawes, has called on the Government to shore up the market by introducing 'supportive measures' in the next Budget.

He also wants ministers to 'agree an ambitious trade deal with Europe', suggesting this would alleviate 'ongoing uncertainty and help the UK to recover its hard-won reputation as a great place for automotive investment'.

Output: The number of cars being manufactured in Britain over the last few years 

Britain's car market: Over 80% of cars made in Britain are destined for export

Market overview: The number of cars made in Britain for the domestic market fell sharply last month 

Car factories up and down the country churned out 118,314 motors last month, marking the fifth successive month of falls.

Over 82 per cent of cars made in Britain are destined for export and overseas orders swelled by 4.1 per cent to 97,870 last month, bolstered by demand in Asia and certain parts of Europe. 

This export-led growth failed to offset a worrying double-digit drop in production for domestic orders as demand for new vehicles in Britain continues to shrink.

Output for the domestic market fell by 23.9 per cent in January, 'with continuing weak confidence meaning January car production overall recorded its lowest total for nine years', the SMMT said. 

Delving deeper into the numbers, there were 26,854 cars made in Britain for the domestic market in January last year, while last month, only 20,444 were made for the home market.  

And the picture for the UK car manufacturing industry looks bleak, for the immediate future at least.

Factories are already experiencing part supply issues caused by the outbreak of coronavirous in China.

With many car makers using parts from the world's second largest economy, some brands have had to go to extreme lengths to get components back to the UK - with Jaguar Land Rover admitting it has flown some parts in suitcases from China.

With more countries being impacted by the virus, trade lines have become more restricted and could take a toll on vehicle plant operations.

Jaguar Land Rover, the UK's biggest car maker producing almost 400,000 motors a year, has also scheduled factory shutdowns for full and part days until the end of March at its two plants in the West Midlands due to a lack of demand for its new models.  

Hawes said: '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.'