LONDON (Reuters) - British car production fell slightly in April compared with the same month last year, as stronger demand at home failed to outweigh a fall in exports, an industry body said on Thursday.
Production fell 3.8 percent to 128,312 cars last month, driven down by a drop in sales to overseas markets which account for around four in five cars built in Britain, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.
The number of cars built for British buyers rose by 11.1 percent to 29,930 vehicles, whereas the number of models destined for abroad fell 7.6 percent to 98,382.
Britain’s car market has outperformed those of its neighbours in recent years, with sales returning to pre-recession levels and production rising, albeit by less than expected due to weaker than anticipated exports.
Cooling demand in China, Britain’s biggest non-EU export market in 2014, has hit manufacturers including Jaguar Land Rover, owned by India’s Tata Motors, while in Russia, Britain’s third-biggest non-EU market, demand tumbled after the imposition of sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine.
But despite the sluggish performance of key overseas markets, the SMMT still forecasts rising British output over coming years, thanks to new models due to roll off the production lines at the likes of Honda and BMW.
“Manufacturers across the country are poised to see yet more growth following multi-billion pound investments and, providing global markets perform well, output is on track to reach record levels in the next few years,” SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said.
Britain, which built 1.53 million cars in 2014, is expected to produce a record 1.95 million in 2017.
Reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by David Holmes