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