SMMT chief Mike Hawes has called for car dealers to be opened ‘ideally before April 12’ as car manufacturing figures for January plummet.

Using news that car production fell 27.3 per cent in January, the SMMT chief executive also called on the government to introduce support for the industry in next week’s budget.

Hawes (pictured top) said: ‘Yet another month of decline for UK car production is a grave concern and next week’s Budget is the chancellor’s opportunity to boost the industry by introducing measures that will support competitiveness, jobs and livelihoods.

‘Whilst there have been some very welcome recent announcements, we need to secure our medium to long-term future by creating the conditions that will attract battery gigafactory investment and transform the supply chain.

‘Most immediately, however, we must get our Covid-secure car showrooms back open, ideally before April 12. This will be the fastest way to UK automotive manufacturing recovery.’

Car dealerships are safe environments and to hamper March, which is the biggest month of the year, inflicts even more pain on the motor industry

Hawes’ words echo sentiments expressed by car dealers earlier in the week at the news showrooms will stay shut until April 12, then reopening along with most other non-essential retail.

Boss of Magna Group, Tony Roberts, told Car Dealer he was ’empathetic’ to the government’s strategy to safely come out of lockdown, but questioned why forecourts have to remain closed.

‘Why aren’t we allowed to, at the very least, conduct some level of business in the open air?’ he said. ‘Especially, as by May, the proposal is we can go watch a game of football with 9,999 others!’

Stuart Foulds, chairman and CEO of TrustFord, went further and said: ‘This news is a deadly blow for our industry – car dealerships are safe environments and to hamper March, which is the biggest month of the year, inflicts even more pain on the motor industry.’

Meanwhile, Marshall Motor Group chief Daksh Gupta said: ‘Some people will be disappointed with the news today – but I am viewing it as 49 days and counting…’

Worst figures since 2009

Hawes was speaking as the SMMT revealed car production levels in January had slumped to their worst levels since 2009.

Car manufacturing for both home and overseas markets was down, to 16,692 and 69,360 units respectively, representing falls of 18.3 per cent and 29.1 per cent.

While exports still accounted for more than eight in 10 of all cars made in the month, shipments to major markets the EU, US and Asia all fell by double digits, down 26.2 per cent, 34.5 per cent and 36.1 per cent.

UK production of pure-electric and hybrids faired better, however, with combined output of these vehicles rising 18.9 per cent in January to 21,792 units.

This means more than one in four (25.3 per cent) of all cars leaving factory gates was alternatively fuelled in January.

Increased output of EVs and PHEVs is a ‘key take-out’ from the SMMT figures, says Autocar editorial director, Jim Holder, who also adds battery manufacturing needs to increase if the UK wishes to remain a leader in electric cars.

‘With Jaguar and Ford recently announcing plans to go electric by 2025 and 2030, respectively, the UK needs to establish itself as a leading manufacturer of electric vehicles,’ he said.

‘This means getting to grips with the new “Rules of Origin” framework, which seeks to increase the UK and EU parts content of cars by 2027.

‘With the majority of electric vehicle batteries manufactured outside the EU and UK, EVs imported and sold here could face 10 per cent tariffs in the future if battery manufacturing capacity in the UK doesn’t increase.’

Holder added: ‘The government previously announced a 10-point green plan, including investments in several green initiatives, and EV manufacturing should be a priority if the UK is to retain its status as a leading car manufacturer in the electric era.’

Stuart Foulds blasts decision to keep showrooms shut



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