Yet another month of falling car production in the UK – numbers were down -4.0% in October, with 134,752 units coming off production lines. This means that output has dropped in 16 of the last 17 months, with August 2019 the odd one out thanks to summer shutdowns being moved to mitigate the effects of the anticipated Brexit deadline.
Clearly these are deeply worrying times – Brexit poses an existential threat to our industry, when what we need is strength and stability to face the global economic challenges and technological changes that are affecting automotive firms worldwide.
Our sector is led by exports, taking advantage of the foundation of free and frictionless trade on which it was built, shipping vehicles to more than 160 countries around the world. During these uncertain times we need to be able to rely on close trading relationships with our key partners, including the European Union and beyond.
This week’s Annual Dinner was a welcome opportunity to take stock of the year, and it was good to see so many industry faces in one room. Comedian Al Murray brought some much needed levity to proceedings, but the message from UK Automotive was a serious one. We want to work closely with the next government, whoever forms it, to ensure the continuation of frictionless trade, free of tariffs, with regulatory alignment and continued access to talent in the future.
When it comes to Brexit, detailed trade negotiations have yet to begin – they will be complex and they will take time, but they are essential to unlocking investment so we can deliver our goals: cleaner air, zero carbon emissions, and the ability to go on innovating, building our products and marketing them globally.
Our latest forecasts show that rather than producing two million cars a year by 2020, as we were expecting not so very long ago, a WTO tariff scenario which remains a possibility if we are unable to secure a post Brexit trade deal by the end of next year, could see us making just a million. The next government must deliver the ambition, the competitive business environment and the commitment needed to keep automotive in Britain.