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UK car exports to India hikes 4.81 percent as Brexit-hit industry struggles


Britain's car exports to India registered a 4.81 percent hike over the previous year, even as the automotive industry battled with Brexit uncertainties to record a 9.1 percent fall in production figures, according to the latest figures released here on Thursday.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) found that UK manufacturers sold 1,199 units to India in 2018, which marks a rise from 1,144 units in 2017.

It meant that India retains its place as the 12th largest Asian market for the UK's car industry, a market led by China and Japan. Tata Motors-owned Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) was the frontrunner in terms of popularity, with UK-manufactured Range Rover Sport and Range Rover among the most bought models by Indians, alongside BMW's Mini Hatch.

The overall size of the Indian new car market also registered a 6 percent hike to hit 2.55 million cars in 2018, with the UK importing 14,064 cars built in India. "Despite challenges as the UK leaves the EU, the fundamental strengths of British automotive manufacturing have not changed, but it's imperative we have economic and political stability to safeguard future growth and our mutually beneficial trading relationships. The UK has a global reputation for automotive engineering, thanks to a rich history, highly skilled workforce and a diverse array of desirable brands," said SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes.

"The industry trades globally, benefitting from strong government support for the sector, a competitive business environment and free and fair trading arrangements with the EU and other global markets," he added.

The industry body has been calling for frictionless arrangements with the European Union (EU) - its largest export market - as the UK negotiates its exit from the economic bloc.

The SMMT, the influential representative body for the British auto industry, said the investment fell by 50 percent last year as companies held back spending due to Brexit-related uncertainty. "We need a deal," said Hawes, in reference to shaky negotiations over Britain's Withdrawal Agreement with the EU.

The EU remains Britain's largest trading partner, taking a 52.6 percent share of all UK car exports in 2018, equivalent to 650,628 units.

At the same time, 68.4 percent of all new cars registered on UK roads were imported from European factories. "Every day, more than 1,100 trucks cross into the UK from the continent to deliver some GBP 35 million worth of components to UK vehicle and engine plants - emphasising the importance of free and frictionless trade between Britain and Europe," the SMMT notes. "Critical as this is, uninterrupted bilateral trade between the UK and other key global destinations must also continue. Some 15.7 percent of all UK car exports go to global destinations with which the UK enjoys mutually preferential trading arrangements as part of the EU," it said.

The data show that while the output for UK and overseas markets were down 16.3 percent and 7.3 percent respectively, export volumes remain near a record high, with 8 in 10 cars produced for international customers.

As many as 1,237,608 cars were built for export in the year, highlighting the industry's export-led growth. The figures show that demand for British-made cars grew substantially in a number of international markets, such as Japan (26.0 percent), South Korea (23.5 percent), Russia (10.3 percent) and the US (5.3 percent).