UK car production declined -44.6% in August, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Just 51,039 units rolled off factory lines as efforts to ramp up production stalled amid the coronavirus crisis, with weak demand in key overseas markets compounded by a significant fall in output for UK buyers. The performance also reflects an unusually strong August in 2019, when some plants worked through the customary summer maintenance shutdown period, instead pausing in April to mitigate the then possible no deal Brexit on 31 March.

Production for UK buyers fell -58.3% in the month to just 7,795 units, while exports followed a similar pattern, declining by -41.1% with 43,244 vehicles produced for overseas markets. Almost 85% of all cars built in Britain in August were destined for countries around the world, underlining the importance of this trade to the sector and UK economy.

So far this year UK car production is down -40.2%, representing a loss of 348,821 units. Manufacturing output for the domestic market is down -46.0% in the first eight months, with exports falling -38.8%, but still taking the lion’s share of output.

The news comes as the UK braces for a second wave of coronavirus, with local lockdowns in place across parts of the country and tighter social and business restrictions to curb the rate of transmission.

Consequently, assistance for sectors such as automotive, where many firms cannot operate at full speed, is now critical and the Job Support Scheme, as well as the other financial measures announced yesterday, come as welcome news. Flexible measures to support short time working and cashflow are essential for automotive businesses while market demand and production capacity remain diminished.

So far this year UK car production losses due to the crisis have cost manufacturers more than £9.5 billion, losses that will be impossible to catch back.

Meanwhile at least 13,500 jobs are known to have been cut across the entire UK automotive sector in 2020, with a recent SMMT member survey highlighting that one in six auto jobs are at risk of redundancy when the current job support scheme ends.