The UK car industry is blaming a sharp drop in the number of vehicles manufactured last month on factory preparations for the production of new models.
It marked the second month in a row that brakes were applied with some force to vehicle assembly in Britain.
The car sector, which has been among the most vocal in its Brexit demands since the referendum a year ago, reported a 9.7% fall in production during May compared to the same month a year ago when growth of 26% was declared.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said 136,119 new cars were built – with the largest drop-off, in percentage terms, coming from those produced for the domestic market as prices and taxes rise on many new vehicles.
But the number of cars made for export also fell, at a time when a recent report for the CBI showed the UK manufacturing sector’s order books at their highest level since 1988.
There is growing evidence so-called ‘made in Britain’ firms are starting to feel the benefits of the weaker pound since the EU vote, as it makes their goods more competitive abroad.
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Almost 80% of all cars made in Britain are exported, with more than half going to Europe.
The industry blamed the timing of Easter for a deeper plunge in production in April.
It has been coy to acknowledge any benefit from sterling – pointing out that its supply chain, mostly based in the EU, has raised its costs as the weaker pound makes imports more expensive.
It argues that tariff-free trade with the EU must be maintained in the Brexit talks if investment is not to be shifted elsewhere.
Commenting on the latest figures, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “After a record start to the year, car production in the UK has slowed as production lines gear up for a range of new models.
“Global demand is strong and exports remain the driving force for British car production volumes in the UK.
“Maintaining our current open trade links with Europe, our biggest market, and further developing global markets is vital for this sector.”