UK car production plunged 59% to 59,777 units last month with year to date (YTD) output off 58.8% to 121,181 units, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Exports were down 58% to 46,617 (78% of total output) while production for the UK market fell 62.2% to 13,160 units. YTD exports were down 56.1% to 97,889 cars and output for UK buyers slowed 37.4% to 23,292.

The figures reflect the current four-month closure of Honda’s UK plant, the sole global source of Civic hatchbacks, which also makes CR-V SUVs for Europe. Toyota’s UK plant, sole maker of the Avensis, is on short-time working alongside other UK plants such as Jaguar, Land Rover, Vauxhall, Bentley and BMW’s Mini facility, which which axed its weekend shift during February.

Ford has also reduced output at one of the UK’s key light commercial vehicle plants – its Southampton source of some Transit variants.

According to the SMMT, CV production fell 71.6% to 5,870 units last month (-65.7% to 14,221 YTD). Export output was down 62% to 4,450 (-54.8% to 10,854 YTD).

“The large fall in February’s vehicle production is a direct result of weak demand and the need to protect the highly-skilled workforce and valuable industrial capability in the UK automotive sector,” said SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt.

“We have seen action to encourage longer-term investment, but still require government support for short-time working, easier access to finance and credit and the implementation of a vehicle scrappage scheme.”

The 2010 British motor show has been cancelled, the SMMT announced yesterday, saying “the economic downturn and the unprecedented challenges facing the industry both in the UK and around the world, have made it impossible for exhibitors to commit to a 2010 event”.