The fleet and leasing industry faces further uncertainty after MPs voted down Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
The Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement was defeated by 432 votes to 202.
Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said there were “no words” to describe the “frustration, impatience, and growing anger” among business after “two-and-a-half years on a high-stakes, political rollercoaster ride that shows no sign of ending”.
“Basic questions on real-world operational issues remain unanswered and firms now find themselves facing the unwelcome prospect of a messy and disorderly exit from the EU on March 29," he said.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), told MPs prior to the vote that they held the “future of the British automotive industry – and the hundreds and thousands of jobs it supports – in their hands”.
Following the vote, Hawes said the country was now "closer" to a "no deal cliff edge that would be catastrophic for the automotive industry".
"All sides in Parliament must work together to find a way forward and put the necessary mechanisms in place to prevent this happening and explore alternatives that protect our future," continued Hawes.
“Leaving the EU, our biggest and most important trading partner, without a deal and without a transition period to cushion the blow would put this sector and jobs at immediate risk.
"No deal must be avoided at all costs. Business needs certainty so we now need politicians to do everything to prevent irreversible damage to this vital sector.”
With a majority of MPs against the UK leaving without a deal with the EU, Speaker John Bercow gave reassurances to MPs that they would have the opportunity “to debate and vote” on alternative ways forward, signalling that the future direction of Brexit policy could be taken out of the hands of the Government and handed over to Parliament.
May insisted that the Government’s strategy was not to “run down the clock” to March 29. “I have always believed that the best way forward is to leave in an orderly way with a good deal,” she said.
The Government now faces a motion of no confidence, tabled by the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn following the Commons defeat, which is expected to be debated tomorrow (Wednesday, January 16) at 1pm.
If MPs were to back the no confidence motion, the Government, or anyone else who can command a majority, would get 14 days to win a further confidence vote. If they were not able to win that vote, a general election would then follow.
Commons records show that 118 Conservative MPs voted with the opposition parties against the withdrawal agreement.
In her statement to MPs, the Prime Minister said she planned to return to the Commons on Monday (January 21) with an alternative plan - if the Government survives the vote of no confidence.
EC president, Donald Tusk, urged the UK government to "clarify" its intentions with respect to its next steps "as soon as possible".
Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), which represents franchised car and commercial vehicle retailers in the UK, said: “The UK is the second largest car market in Europe with £35.3 billion worth of cars imported to the UK from Europe and the retail automotive sector employs 555,000 people directly in the UK.
"Following the result of the vote last night, NFDA urges the Government to take all necessary steps to ensure that our industry is protected. Businesses and consumers need clarity about the Government’s future plans”.