UK car manufacturing plunged a further 14.2% last year, sending overall production to its lowest level in nearly a decade.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said on Thursday that weak consumer and business confidence, slower demand from overseas, a shift away from diesel, and Brexit-related factory slowdowns were to blame.
The country’s auto industry produced 1.3 million units in 2019, the weakest output since 2010, the SMMT said. It was the third consecutive year of declines for the sector.
The figures come as it emerged that Ralf Speth, the long-standing CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, will step back from his position later this year.
Under Speth’s leadership, the carmaker has been forced to shed thousands of jobs and overhaul its business amid sharp losses resulting from the same spurning of diesel that has weakened the industry overall.
Car production in 2019 was dented by a fall in both the domestic and export markets. Manufacturing for domestic car buyers fell by 12.3%, while the total produced for export plummeted by 14.7%.
“The fall of UK car manufacturing to its lowest level in almost a decade is of grave concern. Every country in the world wants a successful automotive sector as it is a driver of trade, productivity, and jobs,” said Mike Hawes, the CEO of the SMMT.
Although shipments to the European Union declined by more than 11%, it still remains the UK car industry’s most important market. Its overall share of exports climbed by 2 percentage points, to 54.8%.
The SMMT thus called for an ambitious trade deal with the EU in order to drive growth and prosperity for the sector.
“Given the uncertainty the sector has experienced, it is essential we re-establish our global competitiveness and that starts with an ambitious free trade agreement with Europe, one that guarantees all automotive products can be bought and sold without tariffs or additional burdens,” Hawes said.
Meanwhile, the outgoing Jaguar Land Rover CEO will remain on the board of Tata Sons (TCS.NS), the parent company of the carmaker’s owner.
He will also continue to advise the carmaker.