Ross Clark

Why is the BBC blaming falling car sales on Brexit?

Why is the BBC blaming falling car sales on Brexit?
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Congratulations once again to the BBC’s anti-Brexit propaganda unit, for its news website headline this morning: “Car sales plunge as Nissan warns on Brexit”. It takes talent to pin something on Brexit which even the Guardian admits is caused by something quite different – indeed, something which might more naturally be seen as constituting a case against the EU.    

It is true that there was a sharp fall in car sales in September – which at 338,834 were 20.5 per cent lower than the same month in 2017. It is also true that Nissan has issued a warning that a no-deal Brexit, which could see tariffs of 10 per cent placed on UK car exports to the EU, could harm its business – though it stopped a long way short of threatening to close or even reduce its Sunderland factory. But to stitch these two stories into a single headline which appears to blame Brexit for September’s slump in car sales is really rather disgraceful.  

As the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) makes clear, the reason for the slump is the introduction of the new harmonised light vehicle test procedure (WLTP) –  which replaces the former, discredited system on which Volkswagen admitted cheating. Ahead of the introduction of the new rules in September, manufacturers had a stock of old, non WLTP-compliant vehicles to shift, with the result there were plenty of good deals. In August, indeed, sales were 23.1 per cent higher than they were in the previous August. Come September, however, and manufacturers had a dearth of vehicles they could sell. They have been struggling to make some models pass the new tests and were unable to sell them. Hence the fall in sales – something which has been experienced all over the EU, not just in nasty, racist, Brexit Britain.

Far from being caused by Brexit, the plunge in sales is symptomatic of a poor EU regulatory system. For years, the EU failed to cotton on that its emissions tests were inadequate and were vastly under-estimating the emissions being spewed out in real life road conditions. In the end it was US authorities which caught out Volkswagen cheating on the tests. Finally it has introduced a more stringent test – albeit one that the manufacturers have struggled to pass. That is hardly a great advert for the EU – although I am sure the BBC could try to turn it into one.