Bri­tons face re­duced choice of right-hand drive cars af­ter Brexit

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Business - Alan Tovey

BRI­TISH motorists may be left with fewer choices when it comes to buy­ing new cars or could find them­selves forced to pur­chase a left-hand drive ve­hi­cle if Bri­tain fails to se­cure a freetrade Brexit deal.

The shock sce­nario has been raised by au­to­mo­tive ex­perts ex­am­in­ing the im­pact that trade tar­iffs could have on Bri­tain’s £77.5bn-a-year car in­dus­try. If Bri­tain is un­able to agree a trade deal with the EU it would likely re­sult in World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion tar­iffs be­ing slapped on im­ported cars, prob­a­bly of 10pc, along with a price hike be­cause of ex­tra cus­toms costs.

Man­u­fac­tur­ers could be forced to take cost-cut­ting mea­sures such as halt­ing the devel­op­ment of right-hand drive cars. This would save not just on R&D, but also on costly tool­ing for pro­duc­tion lines ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing both vari­ants. Low-sell­ing styles, such as coupés and sa­loons, are most likely to dis­ap­pear in right-hand drive ver­sions, said Felipe Munoz, global au­to­mo­tive an­a­lysts at JATO Dy­nam­ics.

“One of the best ways to cut costs is by ax­ing the mod­els that don’t shake the mar­ket,” he said.

“In the case of the UK, I’m not that sure man­u­fac­tur­ers could just sus­pend ship­ments of all mod­els, but its prob­a­ble many brands would stop sell­ing mod­els that don’t sell big vol­umes. It has hap­pened in the past. Re­nault never sold the Tal­is­man in the UK be­cause the cost of pro­duc­ing a right­hand drive ver­sion was higher than the ben­e­fit of sell­ing very few units in the UK. Tougher post-brexit con­di­tions will see more of this.”

While Bri­tain has the sec­ond-big­gest car sales in Europe, it is the only size­able mar­ket that drives on the left.

Other Euro­pean coun­tries that drive on the left are Ire­land, which has a mar­ket about a 10th of the size of the UK’S, and Cyprus and Malta. Big right-hand drive mar­kets are: Aus­tralia, Ja­pan and South Africa. Pro­fes­sor David Bai­ley, a car in­dus­try ex­pert at As­ton Univer­sity, said tar­iffs could strengthen some UK car plants.

“They could end up spe­cial­is­ing in right-hand drive pro­duc­tion for us and oth­ers, pos­si­bly main­tain­ing the vi­a­bil­ity of some plants,” he said. “But there will still be a hit to out­put and jobs, as vol­umes will be lower than pro­duc­ing for mar­kets for ei­ther side of the road.”

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