Output falls at Nissan in Sunderland by more than 20 per cent

Car production at Nissan's Sunderland plant fell by more than a fifth in 2019, according to statistics published today.

Industry body the Society for Motor Manufacturers and traders (SMMT) has released its figures on UK car manufacturing.

They show Nissan produced 346,535 cars last year, a 21.6 per cent drop of 2018's figure of 442,254 and the second-biggest reduction of a UK manufacturer. Honda, which has a factory in Swindon, had the biggest fall; it saw production drop by 32.2 per cent.

Nissan's Qashqai though remains the most popular British-built car for export. The Juke, which was the seventh most popular car for export in 2018, has fallen out of the top 10.

Nissan employs 7,000 people at its factory in Sunderland, which opened in 1986.

It is the second-largest producer of cars in the UK behind Jaguar Land Rover, which produced 385,197 in 2019.

In October, the Japanese firm announced it was ending the nightshift at the plant. The following month, the company announced a 70 per cent fall in quarterly profits.

The SMMT has also found that in regions "such as the North East and West Midlands, automotive accounts for more than one in six manufacturing jobs".

Nationally, the number of cars built in the UK fell to its lowest level in almost a decade in 2019, with a further decline expected this year.

Production was down by 14.2 per cent to 1.3 million vehicles, the lowest since 2010, amid structural changes in the industry, weak confidence in the UK, slower demand overseas, and Brexit-related issues.

The SMMT said factory shutdowns last spring and autumn, timed to deal with expected disruption from leaving the EU, had a "marked effect" on production.

Production for UK car buyers fell by 12.3 per cent to 247,000 and by 14.7 per cent for exports, although overseas orders accounted for more than four out of five cars built in UK factories.

Shipments to European Union countries fell by 11.1 per cent last year, but the bloc remains the industry's most important market, with its share of exports increasing by two per cent to 54.8 per cent, said the SMMT.

Exports to other countries fell, by 26 per cent to China, 17 per cent to Japan and almost 10 per cent to the United States.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, repeated the industry's call for afree trade agreement which includes no tariffs, to help maintain jobs and carmaking in the UK.

Mr Hawes said: