21 November 2014

Seeing Past What We Are Told

The SMMT supports and promotes the interests of the UK automotive industry at home and abroad. Each month it releases production data for the UK car industry as a whole. It needs to talk things, up but sometimes you have to look past the spin and see what is really happening.

In August it ran an article entitled "Summer shutdowns subdue August car production". It then said "August output fell 22.1%, with some manufacturers taking additional holiday shutdown. UK car production set for a bright future, with significant investments being realised and new models starting assembly". I wasn't seeing the bright future. The drop compared to the previous year, when holidays were taken as well. The comment additional holiday shutdown made me wonder.

September was down -2.8% with the SMMT's take on this "UK car manufacturing sees best year-to-date performance since 2008, producing 1,132,017 units – up 0.6%. September output falls slightly to 137,068 units, down 2.8% due to planned re-tooling for model changes". I wasn't buying this and wrote an article The UK Car Industry Into A Headwind where I noted poor European demand with apathy and ignorance over local car manufacturing meant few UK made cars were sold in the UK. These two factors were making me feel that UK production volumes were not going to be as good as the SMMT was making out.

For October comes the realigned position that "Global economic uncertainty affecting demand, but outlook is still positive with all-time record production levels expected within the next few years. Around 80% of UK-built cars are exported..." The record production is now to be realised in the next few years. If I hear again that 80% of UK cars exported, as if that is something good.... The fact is it is appalling. It shows how pathetic local support is.

At least now we have the acknowledgement that things are not so rosy. The Euro zone isn't doing well. On top of that, local bias limits the share that imports from the UK will ever make in markets such as Germany. This despite the fact that German made cars massively outsell UK made in the UK. The UK cannot rely on things going two ways. So unless the UK becomes more attuned and supportive of it's industry, the strong sales of cars in the UK will be of little benefit to local car makers. I wonder when the SMMT will write an article about that.

What it means: The signs were there, and we have to look past the headlines to find what is really happening.

PS. Looking at the chart below, exports were down 10.8% for October. The total cars made for the domestic market makes up only 13% of the cars sold in the UK for the same period. Put another way, nearly 7 out of every 8 cars sold in the UK is imported!

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