UK car production plunged 47.5% last month to 53,823 units. Year to date output was off 5.7% to 1,446,619 vehicles.

Export output fell 44.4% to 46,560 cars in December and exports for the year dipped 4.8% to 1,128,586.

Commercial vehicle output fell 56.7% to 6,290 units last month while the YTD tally was down 5.9% to 202,896.

Exports fell 52.4% in December to 4,465; the year to date total was 125,611, down 4.5%.

The results were no surprise as most UK auto factories were on short-time working in December and had announced extended Christmas holiday breaks.

"UK vehicle production figures for 2008 demonstrate both the strength of the sector and the very dramatic fall in demand in the last quarter," said Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) chief Paul Everitt.

"UK facilities are globally competitive with high productivity levels and hugely attractive model line-ups. Exports account for 75% of all UK vehicle production, serving more than 100 markets around the world."

He added: "The automotive industry is of strategic economic and social importance, reflected in the measures to support the industry being discussed by governments across Europe and around the world.

"SMMT has been in close discussion with UK government on the urgent need to improve access to credit and kick-start demand in the market, in order to sustain valuable industrial capability during this exceptionally difficult period.

"SMMT is looking forward to meeting with [industry minister] Lord Mandelson before the end of January to receive government's response to the proposals we submitted at our November meeting," Everitt said.