UK carmakers face calm before virus storm: industry
UK car production fell by just 0.8 per cent to 122,171 vehicles in February from the same month of last year, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said in a statement.
Britain's carmakers are facing the 'calm before the storm', as they brace for severe fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, the nation's industry body warned on Friday.
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The industry organisation added that in February -- the month before the coronavirus pandemic started to be felt in Britain -- global shipments fell 3.1 per cent to just short of 95,000 cars.
However, the SMMT also forecast that the coronavirus outbreak could wipe around 200,000 units off UK production this year -- and called for government help for automakers to cope with the COVID-19 outbreak.
'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,' it said in the statement.
'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 per cent.
'However, the impact could be far more severe if the crisis, and therefore shutdowns, were to last for months instead of weeks.'
And the SMMT urged the British government to accelerate access to its emergency support for all businesses, including automakers.
'Despite the myriad global challenges the UK automotive industry has faced in recent times, it remains fundamentally strong and February's figures reflect that,' added SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes.
However, these figures also reflect the calm before the storm.
With UK car plants now effectively on national shutdown and many global markets closed, the outlook is of deep concern.
We wholeheartedly welcome government's extraordinary package of emergency support for businesses and workers, but this must get through to businesses now.
If we're to keep this sector alive and in a position to help Britain get back on its feet, we urgently need funding to be released, additional measures to ease pressure on cashflow and clarity on how employment support measures will work.'
Britain's car sector, which is largely foreign-owned, has already suffered a turbulent three years after Britons voted in favour of Brexit in June 2016. The nation finally left the European Union on January 31.