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China remains UK auto's third biggest trading partner in first half

By Du Xiaoying in London | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-07-28 00:52

Mike Hawes gives a briefing on the UK’s auto manufacturing and global exports performance in the first half. [Photo by Du Xiaoying / chinadaily.com.cn]

China was the UK auto industry's third biggest trading partner in the first half of this year, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Almost 48,000 Chinese buyers chose one of the UK's premium and luxury cars during the six-month period, accounting for 7.0 percent of all UK auto exports, the SMMT said Thursday.

But sales in China fell 6.4 percent overall as the automotive sector adjusted to changes in regulation governing new car imports and British firms based some production in China.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of SMMT, said China-based production of British auto brands, such as Land Rover, and new regulations are reasons leading to the export drop.

"First of all, it's been UK car manufacturer investing in China, I think Jaguar or Land Rover opened its plants in China," Hawes said. "It's expanding production and that's taken some of the export from its UK plants and based them in China."

Hawes said China remains "a vitally important partner for the UK," with both investing significantly in each other's countries.

"Strengthening this relationship through mutually beneficial trade agreements has the potential to unlock huge opportunities for our respective industries and economies," he said.

In total, UK car production fell by 2.9 percent in the first half, with 866,656 cars rolling off production lines, the SMMT said. Global demand for British-built cars slipped by 0.9 percent.

There was a 13.7 percent drop in the number of cars being built last month due to concerns over the impact of Brexit upon business – the third month in a row that UK output has fallen.

The European Union remained the UK's biggest trading partner, accounting for more than half – or 54.6 percent – of all cars produced for export, with the US second at 15 percent, up by more than a third.

The auto industry has called on the UK government to outline its Brexit plans and ensure barrier free trade with the EU.

The SMMT figures were released the day after the British government announced its plan to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2040 to encourage people to buy electric vehicles.

Earlier this week, BMW announced it would manufacture the new electric version of the Mini at its site in Cowley, Oxfordshire.

Contact the writer at duxiaoying1@chinadaily.com.cn

Zhang Yangfei contributed to the story

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