UK car production falls 14% in worst February since 2010

Just 105,008 cars were built in the UK in February 2021, marking the 18th consecutive month of decline

Production line

UK car production fell by 14 per cent year-on-year in February 2021, the lowest figure for the month since 2010, and the 18th consecutive month of decline.

Some 17,163 fewer cars were built last month than in February 2020, the result of reduced demand due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions keeping car showrooms shut, as well as ongoing issues with post-Brexit customs processes and global supply-chain issues.

Production for the domestic market fell by 34.9 per cent, while exports were down 8.1 per cent. The latter accounted for 83.2 per cent of all cars made in the UK during the month, with 53.9 per cent of these being exported to EU countries.

Total production of electric, plug-in hybrid and conventional hybrid vehicles in February rose 25.3 per cent to 23,019 units. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which released the figures, said both manufacturing and market competitiveness would have to be maintained in order for this growth to continue, warning that that the recent cut to the plug-in car grant was “counter-intuitive”.

February 2021 is also the last month for which year-on-year car production figures can be compared with pre-Covid levels, with the effects of the pandemic having reached the UK in March 2020; next month’s figures will reflect how production has changed in the time since Covid hit these shores.

Although car manufacturing restarted in summer 2020 and factories have not had to close under the second and third national lockdowns, dealerships have been closed for many months, while there has also been a shortage of components such as semiconductors, and difficulties in relation to the new post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Nevertheless, the SMMT expects UK manufacturing will recover this year, predicting 1.05 million units will be produced before the end of 2021 - up 15.8 per cent on 2020. Last year’s results were the worst since 1984, however. It’s then hoped that around 1.1 million cars will be built in the UK in 2022, although this will still be below the pre-Covid figure for 2019 of 1.3 million.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said: “A year into the pandemic, these figures are yet more evidence of how badly coronavirus has hit UK car production. Thankfully, there are some rays of light with UK showrooms due to reopen on 12 April, vaccinations progressing and a roadmap to kickstart the economy.

“The automotive sector can play a crucial role in getting the UK back on its feet, supporting jobs across the country, driving growth and helping the country transition to zero emission mobility. However, the UK is not isolated from global issues and our automotive industry still needs a stable and secure international market in order to prosper.”

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