A sharp decline in UK commercial vehicle (CV) manufacturing has prompted calls for an urgent agreement on a post-Brexit transition deal, due to the importance of the EU as an export market.
Figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that UK production fell by 16.7% in 2017.
Domestic demand suffered a 25% drop, but the export market was healthier, falling by 10.8%.
This meant exports accounted for 62.5% of UK CV manufacturing, the largest proportion in eight years.
The figures show that the vast majority of this overseas demand came for the EU, which accounted for 94.1% of the export market.
The SMMT says the industry therefore needs an urgent agreement on the terms of a post-Brexit transition deal, which must be comprehensive, result in no change and allow business to continue as usual until a new trading relationship with the EU is in place.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “Fluctuating fleet purchasing cycles, alongside declining confidence among operators in the CV market, affected production in 2017.
“British CV manufacturing continues to make a vital contribution to the UK economy, with an increasing proportion shipped to global markets.
“More than nine out of every 10 vehicles we export are produced for EU customers, underscoring the need for urgent clarity on the transitional arrangements for Brexit.”
The SMMT says a post-Brexit transition deal should maintain the UK’s membership of the single market and customs union and address critical details that, if ignored, could have a damaging effect on the industry’s competitiveness.
It says the agreement must include guarantees that the UK will continue to benefit from EU Free Trade Agreements and Customs Union arrangements with third countries, for the full duration of the transition.
The SMMT also says vehicle certifications that have been issued in the UK must remain valid at home and abroad so that vehicles can continue to be sold across the EU, and that no new customs checks, which it says would add cost, cause delays and disrupt manufacturing, should be applied during the transition.