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SMMT: UK car production steady in February, down -0.8%, as sector braces for coronavirus impact

Output for domestic market climbs 7.8% while exports fall -3.1% to 94,999, reflecting fundamentally sound sector despite global challenges

British car manufacturing fell -0.8% in February, according to figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Some 122,171 vehicles rolled off production lines in the month, representing a loss of just over 1,000 units compared with February 2019. The decline was driven by slower demand in some key global export markets.

In the month before the coronavirus pandemic started to be felt in the UK, global shipments fell -3.1% to just short of 95,000 units. Although combined EU demand rallied (up +3.6%), exports to the US and Asia fell substantially. Meanwhile, there was positive news for the domestic market, where output rose +7.8%, with 27,172 cars produced. Year-to-date figures show a -1.5% year-on-year drop in overall production.

The figures come at a time of unprecedented challenge for the UK and its automotive industry, with all car manufacturing plants now on shutdown as the country focuses efforts on overcoming the crisis. An initial assessment commissioned by SMMT of the potential impact of these shutdowns suggests a loss of around 200,000 units by the end of 2020, just under 1.1 million – a fall of 18%.1 However, the impact could be far more severe if the crisis, and therefore shutdowns, were to last for months instead of weeks.

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