Brexit shutdowns hammer UK car production in April: industry group

May 29, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – British car production collapsed last month by the largest amount since the global financial crisis as factories shut down for a Brexit that never came, industry figures showed on Thursday.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said car production fell 44.5% year-on-year to 70,971 units in April, the sharpest fall since exactly 10 years ago, when Britain was mired in recession.

Car factories shut down last month to sidestep the risk of supply chain disruption from a potentially chaotic “no-deal” Brexit on March 29, the original date for Britain’s departure from the European Union.

While this was pushed back to Oct. 31, the postponement came too late for carmakers to change plans, prompting a “dismal” collapse in output, the SMMT said.

Global trade tensions exacerbated the decline.

“Today’s figures are evidence of the vast cost and upheaval Brexit uncertainty has already wrought on UK automotive manufacturing businesses and workers,” SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said.

“Prolonged instability has done untold damage, with the fear of ‘no deal’ holding back progress, causing investment to stall, jobs to be lost and undermining our global reputation.”

Official data show business investment in Britain fell in every quarter of 2018 and grew only weakly early this year, leaving Britain’s economy reliant on consumer spending to drive growth.

Earlier this month Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said business investment was likely to continue to be weak, but that there should be an improvement – and reduced reliance on consumers – if Brexit took place smoothly.

The manufacture of motor vehicles accounts for about 9 percent of overall manufacturing output in Britain, the world’s fifth largest economy.

(Reporting by Andy Bruce; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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