UK car makers continue to endure a torrid period with production of new vehicles halving in June, with the ongoing toll of the coronavirus on the sector already costing 11,000 jobs in 2020, the trade body said today.
Vehicles manufacturing is down 43 per cent in the first six months of the year, with the crisis still restricting some factories from reopening.
The UK is now on course to produce just over 880,000 new cars this year – a decline of a third compared to 2019 and the lowest output since 1957.
Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders boss, Mike Hawes, described the latest manufacturing report as ‘grim reading’ and said the long-term future of the UK car-making industry now ‘depends on securing a good deal’ as part of Brexit negotiations.
Manufacturing slump continues: Car productions fell by a half in June as the UK automotive industry looks set to be on course for the lowest output in 63 years
Official figures released by the SMMT today show that just 56,594 cars were built in UK factories last month. In June 2019, the output was 109,226
Official stats released on Thursday show that just 56,594 new cars were built in UK vehicle plants last month.
Output is down from 119,226 units in June 2019 – a decline of 48.2 per cent.
That’s despite most car manufacturing sites in the country operating throughout the month, with some returning as early as 4 May.
Rolls-Royce was the first brand to return, shortly followed by Aston Martin and Bentley at the beginning of May, while Jaguar Land Rover restarted its Solihull vehicle plant and Wolverhampton engine factory simultaneously on 18 May.
However, some manufacturers are still yet to raise their shutters.
While June marked a vast improvement on April and May, when only a combined 5,511 cars were built, the performance has officially rounded off the worst first six months for UK car production since 1954
Outputs were down by half in June despite most UK car production facilities operating throughout the month. Bentley in Crewe (pictured) has been building vehicles since 11 May
Jaguar Land Rover, Britain’s biggest car producer, has opened some of its sites, though others remain closed until next month and it has recently announced more job losses
JLR – which is Britain’s biggest car producer – hasn’t restart operations at some of its other plants, including Castle Bromwich where DHL supply staff have been told they will not be returning as part of 2,200 job cuts across the business.
Nissan’s Sunderland site – the largest single car production facility in the country – only restarted its assembly lines on 9 June while French bosses of Vauxhall have recently confirmed that Astra production at the Ellesmere Port factory will resume from 17 August – a full five months after it closed at the start of the pandemic.
The SMMT said slowed production was also caused by the limitations presented by factories having to implement strict social-distancing measures.
This includes smaller workforces, regular and extended machinery clean-down times and spaced-out assembly lines, all of which have caused a drag on productivity.
Strict social distancing measures put in place following the Covid-19 pandemic has limited production, says the industry’s trade body. That’s because businesses are restricting their workforce volumes
Manufacturing has also been slowed by the requirement to regular and extended machinery clean-down times and workers having to regularly sanitise to prevent the spread of Covid-19
Weak demand across global markets was also cited as restricting output.
Manufacturing for the domestic market was down by 63.8 per cent, though – more worryingly – production for export fell by a substantial 45 per cent.
UK’s first car battery gigafactory takes a stride forward
Could this be the home of the UK’s first battery gigafactory? The St Athan site in Wales
The UK’s first car-battery gigafactory is scheduled to open in 2023, potentially providing hundreds of new jobs in Wales.
Manufacturer Britishvolt this week announced that the renowned Italian design house Pininfarina will build the UK’s first large-scale battery gigaplant at the former RAF base of Bro Tathan – the same location of Aston Martin’s newest factory where the DBX SUV is being built.
Pininfarina is most recognised for iconic car design – penning the likes of the Ferrari Daytona and Testarossa – but has more recently expanded into the field of architecture.
A 2.7-million-square-foot plant is to be drawn up. It will have an annual lithium-ion battery production capacity of up to 35GWh, putting it on a par with Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada, USA, says Britishvolt bosses.
No details on investment for the plant have been announced, but it will include government funding.
Orral Nadjari, founder at Britishvolt, said: ‘We are honoured to collaborate with world-renowned design powerhouse Pininfarina, to create our landmark gigaplant.
‘Britishvolt’s aim to become the world’s first zero carbon battery manufacturer aligns perfectly with Pininfarina’s expertise in creating green, high tech and innovative environments.
‘With carefully selected sustainable materials that take into account the entire building’s life cycle, Pininfarina’s appreciation of social impact is what drew us to this partnership.
‘Their balance between pioneering design and understanding of local culture, is one Britishvolt is proud to take forward.’
Silvio Pietro Angori, CEO at Pininfarina, added: ‘We are proud to collaborate with Britishvolt on such an ambitious project, thus contributing towards creating the UK’s largest battery manufacturing facility, and advancing the evolution of e-mobility.
‘Our focus has always been on combining timeless design with social and environmental sustainability, both in automotive design and architecture. Sustainable design is no longer an option to consider down the line, it’s a necessary commitment to create social and economic value for future generations.’
The latter figures is a huge hammer blow to the sector, with nine in 10 new cars produced in the UK being built to order for overseas markets – many of which had their coronavirus lockdowns eased ahead England.
While June marked a vast improvement on April and May, when only a combined 5,511 cars were built, the performance has officially rounded off the worst first six monthsof a year for UK car production since 1954.
Just 381,357 motors have been built since January, a decline of 42.8 per cent, representing a loss of 285,164 units.
As a consequence of the crisis, at least 11,349 job cuts have already been announced across the industry, including manufacturing, supply chain and retail, the SMMT said.
Furthermore, new analysis suggests car production losses could total 1.46 million units by 2025 – worth just over £40 billion – if no free trade agreement is in place by the end of 2020, forcing the sector to trade on World Trade Organisation terms with full tariffs applied – pushing up the price of an average car imported into the UK from EU nations by £1,500.
Mr Hawes said it is now of ‘critical importance’ for the government to strike an EU-UK free-trade agreement for the sector.
The SMMT ceo added: ‘These figures are yet more grim reading for the industry and its workforce, and reveal the difficulties all automotive businesses face as they try to restart while tackling sectoral challenges like no other.
‘Recovery is difficult for all companies, but automotive is unique in facing immense technological shifts, business uncertainty and a fundamental change to trading conditions while dealing with coronavirus.
‘Our factories were once set to make two million cars in 2020 but could now produce less than half that number, a result of the devastating effects of the pandemic on top of already challenging market conditions and years of Brexit uncertainty.
‘This industry has demonstrated its inherent competitiveness and global excellence over the past decade. Its long-term future now depends on securing a good deal and a long-term strategy that supports an industry on which so many thousands of jobs across the country depend.’
The latest independent production outlook commissioned by SMMT, and also released today, now expects just over 880,000 cars to be produced in the UK this year – down by a third on 2019 outputs and 30 per cent less than anticipated in January, ahead of the pandemic striking the economy.
If the trade body’s estimations are correct, the UK automotive sector would have its lowest total manufacturing output since 1957.
The analysis also suggests that without a positive trade agreement with the EU, and the industry trading on WTO terms with 10 per cent tariffs, output could stay around the 800,000 mark or less to 2025.
If an tariff-free agreement can be found, car volumes would recover to pre-crisis levels of 1.2 million units within the next few years and the potential for further long-term growth after that, it claimed.
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Winnie the Pooh 50p coin launches today – could it be in your change?
Four versions of the design will be made available, selling for up to £1,125
Winnie the Pooh will become the latest character from a children’s book to appear on a 50p coin, complete with a jar of honey, although those hoping to find one in their change will be left feeling sour.
Launched a little more than a century on from the birth of Christopher Robin Milne, the son of Winnie the Pooh creator A.A. Milne, the Royal Mint said the coin would be the first in a wider collection featuring the characters from the children’s books.
The Mint teased two other designs for upcoming 50p coins featuring Christopher Robin and Piglet, but if the first coin released from the Hundred Acre Wood proves as popular as previous sets then there is no doubt others will follow.
The bear, who first appeared in a book of the same name in 1926, follows other much-loved characters from children’s books like Peter Rabbit, Paddington Bear and the Gruffalo onto the face of 50p coins.
However, unlike the first two and other characters from Beatrix Potter’s books, Pooh will not be released into circulation and the coin will only be available to buy from the Mint.
Four versions of the design will be put on sale: brilliant uncirculated, coloured, silver proof and gold proof.
An unlimited number of brilliant uncirculated coins will be available to buy, while there will be 45,000 coloured, 18,000 silver and just 525 gold coins put on sale.
Prices range from £10 for the basic brilliant uncirculated version all the way up to £1,125 for the 525 gold coins, enough to buy 833 jars of own brand honey from Tesco, collectively weighing 378.1kg.
The Winnie the Pooh is the first 50p to be released from a wider set, with the Mint teasing two other upcoming designs which could soon be released
Brilliant uncirculated, coloured (pictured), silver and gold coins are set to be released
Although the coin not entering circulation is a blow for collectors, especially those hoping to sell it on for a profit, commemorative children’s coins have proved incredibly popular in recent years.
Beatrix Potter 50p coins displaying the likes of Jemima Puddle-Duck, Tom Kitten and Flopsy Bunny have sold in the hundreds of thousands according to the latest Royal Mint sales figures, which cover commemorative coin sales as recently as 2017.
The Mint sold 221,866 2017 brilliant uncirculated Peter Rabbit 50p coins, 165,668 Jeremy Fisher 50p coins and 159,302 Tom Kitten 50p coins.
These are far lower numbers than the fabled Kew Gardens 50p coin. This circulating coin can now fetch more than £100 on websites such as eBay.
And the release of three 50p coins featuring the Gruffalo in February 2019 sparked such a rush to the deep dark wood to get hold of them that the Royal Mint’s website crashed just after midnight, while This is Money found itself in a queue of more than an hour the next morning to even get onto the website.
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Aston Martin’s £127,000 Vantage Roadster is fast -and in more ways than one
Aston Martin’s new Vantage Roadster not only offers a top speed of 190mph but also stakes a claim to have the fastest operating convertible roof in the business.
The £127,000 Vantage is the baby supercar in the Aston range and now comes as a convertible option for those who want a high-performance motor and to also be seen driving one.
The first examples to come off the Gaydon production line arrived in time for us to test the new Vantage in the final sunshine rays of September’s Indian summer before the long autumnal drag into winter and the sub-7-second roof mechanism gets a few months of rest.
Taking ad-Vantage of the Indian summer: We’ve been among the first to test drive Aston Martin’s new convertible baby supercar, with the Vantage Roadster arriving on UK roads while the extended period of sunshine still graces the UK
We took the Vantage for a spin in the equally glorious Warwickshire countrywide – Shakespeare Country – using the exceptionally popular petrolhead pit-stop Caffeine and Machine in Ettington, near Stratford-upon-Avon and just a stone’s throw from Aston’s headquarters, as a socially-distanced and Covid-19-compliant base for the day.
Aston says the new Vantage Roadster convertible combines ‘uncompromising performance with pure emotion’ – but, with first deliveries about to start, does it live up to the billing?
It certainly turns a few heads when you fire the powerful and throaty 4.0-litre, 510 horsepower, twin-turbo V8 engine into action – the same powerplant that graces the coupe, which is some £6,000 less expensive than the Roadster.
Ray Massey poses with the £127,000 Aston Martin ahead of our first drive in the top-down sports car
It certainly turns a few heads when you fire the powerful and throaty engine into action
Like many sports cars of this ilk, you simply unleash anywhere near the full potency of the Vantage Roadster’s performance while guaranteeing keeping hold of your UK driving licence
The eight-cylinder motor is a powerful beast. So much so that on the UK’s public highways you will barely ever get to do it justice.
It’s linked to a slick 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox, and when you plant the throttle into the carpet, the car rushes to 60mph from a standstill in just 3.7 seconds.
That might be 0.2 seconds slower than the hard-top Coupe, but it feels quicker with the roof in the lowered position and the rapid acceleration rearranging your hair style while the V8 howls in full orchestral crescendo.
But once you’ve hit the legal speed limit in four seconds, where do you go from there?
If you have a de-restricted German Autobahn or use of a private track – and the nerve, of course – at your disposal, it’ll reach a top speed of up to 190mph with the roof raised.
The roof is among the quickest to open and close on the market today, opening and closing in less than 7 seconds
‘Even in winter conditions, it’s worth winding the heater up to the max and enjoying the alfresco driving experience,’ says Ray
A small nudge of the throttle pedal and the explosive acceleration reaction is lightening quick, catapulting the open-top Aston into the distance
But it’s not just outright speed where the Vantage Roadster is an impressively fast performer.
The roof mechanism can only be activated at speeds of up to 30mph, but once deployed will save you from an unseen downpour in less time than it takes Usain Bolt to cross the finish line of a 100-metre sprint.
Lowering the folding canvas lid with a push of switch takes the intricate system just 6.7 seconds, while putting it back up takes a fraction longer at 6.8 – still short enough to keep your lap dry in a thunderstorm.
Suffice to say it’s lovely and snug with the roof up, with the fabric lid doing a great job of cancelling out road rumble and wind noise.
But why waste a soft-top? Even in winter conditions, it’s worth winding the heater up to the max and enjoying the alfresco driving experience.
Even with the roof down, clever design negates a lot of the wind noise taking over the interior acoustics – so much so that you can hold a conversation with a passenger without having to raise your voice too much – granted you haven’t got your foot planted on the accelerator and the V8 at full chorus.
At its heart is the same 4.0-litre, 510 horsepower, twin-turbo V8 engine that graces the Coupe. It’s only a fraction slower in a sprint to 62mph
We spent most of our test route cruising in the friendliest of the three adaptable driving modes, Sport. This provides thrills when you want them but won’t draw unwanted attention driving through town
It’s lovely and snug with the roof up, with the fabric lid doing a great job of cancelling out road rumble and wind noise
Also down to personal choice is how the Vantage Roadster behaves on the road.
Depending on mood or activity, owners have can specially a tuned-in driving mode that corresponds with how they’re feeling or the road they’re driving on.
The selection are all – unsurprisingly – performance orientated, with Sport, Sport+ and Track modes, which offer progressively increased responsiveness and excitement in the order listed.
We initially had the setting wound back to Sport, which is a more than ample base setting if you don’t want to be shifting modes all the time.
But switching it via the steering wheel controls into Sport+ ratchets it up a significant notch, tightening the sinews, boosting the cacophony of sound and creating a real rumble in the asphalt jungle.
A small prod of the throttle pedal and the explosive acceleration reaction is lightening quick, catapulting the open-top Aston into the distance on a straight road.
Will it fit in my garage?
Aston Martin Vantage Roadster
Style: two-door, two-seater convertible
Price: from £126,950
(a £12,100 premium over the Coupe)
On sale: now
First delivers: Autumn 2020
Built: Gaydon, Warwickshire
Width (including mirrors): 2152mm
Weight: 1628kg (60kg more than Coupe)
Top speed: 190mph (compared to 195mph for coupe)
Acceleration: 0-60mph: 3.7 seconds (compared to 3.5 seconds for coupe)
0-62mph: 3.8 seconds.
Engine: 4.0 litre twin-turbo V8
Power: 510 horse-power (PS) / 503bhp
Gears: 8-speed automatic ZF
Wheels: 20-inch 10 spoke. Pirelli P Zero tyres
Average fuel consumption: 24.4mpg
Fuel tank capacity: 73 litres
CO2 emissions: 262g/km
Fabric Z-fold roof: Lowered: 6.7 seconds Raised: 6.8 seconds Both at speeds of up to 31mph
Luggage capacity: 200 litres (enough for golf bag)
But it also focuses the handling, with the suspension feeling more hunkered and reactive to the most minute of adjustments of the steering wheel.
Changing direction with neck-jarring response with the wind gusting over your head, the exposed sensation to G-forces makes it feel like your in an aerobatic stunt plane rather than glued to the road.
Though this does come at the compromise of ride comfort, with the stiffer setup heightening your senses when it comes to Britain’s somewhat rippled tarmac and turning your backside into a pothole postcode data collector you want to download to the local authority’s road repairs department.
Not having access to a circuit during the UK launch event, we wimped out of putting it into its ultimate Track mode, though given the potent performance of Sport+ we can only imagine an increase in brutality of the responsiveness to feel like a full-blooded gym workout.
But you can argue that the Vantage Roadster is as much a cruising – and posing – machine as it is an apex-clipping sports car.
While it can be as unruly as you want it to be on twisting b-roads, it’s also well-mannered around town.
We burbled sedately through the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon for a bit of top-down posturing in the most modest of the driving modes.
Had it not been for the striking good looks – of the car – the sedated V8 soundtrack barely raised suspicion of there being a supercar in close proximity.
And it’s at this pace where the Roadster makes far more sense than the hard-top Vantage Coupe, coming into its own as a compact GT car where you can enjoy the driving sensations and the surrounding scenery dating by your head all in one.
Despite the extra engineering required to keep the topless car stiff and safe on the road, the new Roadster weighs 1,628kg, just 60kg more than the Coupe, thanks in part to the lighter folding roof mechanism and revisions throughout to the chassis and exterior.
The one disappointment for me is that the manual seven-speed gearbox now offered as an option on the Coupe won’t be available for the Roadster, which limits its appeal as a proper driver’s car.
And even with an automatic transmission choosing the gears for you, it’s a thirsty beast – averaging just 24.4 miles to the gallon with hefty CO2 emissions of 262g/km.
With a starting price from £126,960, it’s far from cheap and a hefty premium on the Coupe version, which is a full £12,000 less expensive with the manual gearbox – though the price difference is halved with the auto transmission.
As you might expect, the interior is beautifully clad with high quality leather and robust mental switches and paddles
The driving modes can be adjusted at the toggle of a switch on the steering wheel
With the roof down, the design still negates a lot of the wind noise taking over the interior acoustics. You can hold a conversation with a passenger without having to raise your voice too much – as long as you haven’t got your foot planted on the accelerator
And expect to pay much more if you add bespoke sport and luxury extras such as sports-plus seats and carbon-fibre interiors.
While it might be pricier than the Coupe, it’s not less practical.
A low ‘stack-height’ of the roof means the Roadster can maintain its svelte profile and aerodynamic integrity, says Aston Martin, while also having minimal impact on luggage space.
The boot, while far from massive, has 200-litres of capacity in total – enough to stow a full-sized golf bag plus accessories.
In an ideal world, I’d pick the Roadster with a manual ‘box for the best combination of enjoyment and engagement. But even without the stick shift, the convertible still wins me over with the added drama it brings.
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Bailout bill tops £100bn but struggling firms beg for more
Businesses are demanding more taxpayer cash to help them survive new lockdown restrictions, as the Treasury revealed the bill for propping up struggling firms has topped £100billion so far.
Six trade associations have written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak urging him to extend the emergency loan schemes due to end this month.
Sunak has also come under mounting pressure to prolong the furlough scheme to avoid a wave of job losses.
Six trade associations have written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured) urging him to extend the emergency loan schemes due to end this month
Business leaders are calling for an extension for firms which will be hardest hit by new lockdown measures, which include 10pm curfews for pubs and restaurants in England and an instruction to work from home if you can.
This has raised fears of mass redundancies in the hospitality sector and among High Street retailers, which rely heavily on office workers.
As Premier Inn owner Whitbread announced plans to cut up to 6000 jobs, Nick Mackenzie, Greene King’s chief executive, said: ‘Pubs are just starting to get back on their feet after lockdown and these new restrictions are a significant setback.
‘We urgently need the Government to extend the furlough scheme for hospitality venues and confirm what additional support it will provide to protect jobs and the future of pubs.’
Yesterday, Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey, who recently backed Sunak’s decision to end the Job Retention Scheme on October 31, urged the Government to ‘stop and rethink the approach’.
In a webinar hosted by the British Chambers of Commerce, he said that future schemes should be targeted at the sectors most in need.
His intervention came as the Chancellor received a joint letter from a group of trade bodies including the Finance & Leasing Association, and the Consumer Credit Association, calling for extensions to emergency loan schemes. They said: ‘Now is not the time for the British Business Bank to curtail its support schemes.’
The Chancellor is already expected to extend the loans schemes, which were due to expire at the start of November, to the end of November.
But the plea for more support came as official figures revealed that more than £105billion has been dished out in emergency loans and wage subsidies for furloughed workers so far.
Banks have handed out £15.5billion to 66,585 firms under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.
These loans are 80 per cent backed by the Government – meaning if firms become unable to pay, the taxpayer is on the hook.
And almost 1.3m Bounce Back loans, worth £38billion and which carry a 100 per cent Government guarantee, have been handed to smaller companies.
A total of £39.3billion has so far been claimed by 1.2m employers under the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme, which has supported 9.6m jobs at some stage during the crisis.
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