British car factories are sending vehicles down assembly lines at barely half the rate they were a year ago.
Latest production figures showed that output slumped by 44 per cent in August to just 51,000.
Though the month is usually a slow one because of factory shutdowns for the summer holiday, the volumes this year paint a depressing picture of the motor industry during the pandemic.
In the year to date, with only January and February undisturbed by the coronavirus outbreak, UK car factory production is down by 40 per cent year-on-year at 518,000.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which collates the figures, said 350,000 fewer cars have come off lines this year, vehicles worth £9.5 billion. More than 20,000 jobs have gone in the past two years.
It is depressing reading for a sector that prior to the decision to leave the EU was confidently predicting annual production of a record-breaking 2 million vehicles a year as the three big carmakers in the UK — Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan and Mini — poured investment into new facilities and models. The SMMT is now forecasting a figure of fewer than 885,000 for 2020.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said the pandemic is wreaking havoc as the industry prepares for life after Brexit.
“These are increasingly disturbing times for UK carmakers and suppliers,” he said. “Companies are bracing for a second wave of the pandemic, with tighter social and business restrictions making the industry’s attempts to restart even more challenging.
“With fewer than 100 days until the Brexit transition period ends, we need urgent agreement of a trade deal.”