British car production fell by 58.7 per cent in January, according to figures released on 20 February by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
The SMMT reported that commercial vehicle production slumped dramatically following extended winter shutdowns by major UK car manufacturers.
A total of 61,404 cars were produced last month, a significant reduction from the same period a year ago. Domestic car production fell 72.3 per cent to 10,132 vehicles, while 83.5 per cent of the 61,404 cars produced were exported.
Paul Everitt, the SMMT’s chief executive, said that the figures highlighted the need for government intervention: ‘The proportion of cars exported peaked in January – evidence of the resilience of UK automotive manufacturing. European markets have been lifted by scrappage incentive schemes and the SMMT continues its call for a UK plan to boost the new vehicle market and support employment throughout the sector. The motor industry reiterates its request for an urgent government response.’
The reports come just a day after Britain’s largest union, Unite, met with Alistair Darling for crisis talks on the state of the UK’s manufacturing industry.
The meeting was called by the union leaders because of fears that a car plant closure, which could have an impact on 100,000 jobs in the UK, would be imminent without government support.
Derek Simpson, Unite’s joint general secretary, said: ‘The problems in the car industry have reached crisis point. Unless there is urgent assistance, UK manufacturing will not recover after the recession. We made it absolutely clear that the prospect of a plant closure will have a devastating effect on UK manufacturing. Immediate and effective intervention is required from the government.
‘We are calling for a £13bn fund to be made available to provide interim relief for producers and to cover employment costs during the crisis period. We need a strategic support package from the government, similar to the support provided by the German, French and Swedish governments to their manufacturing industries.
‘We cannot afford to let a short-term problem deprive Britain of the skills we will depend on to compete in the world economy in the long term,’ he added.