UK car production on the mend but not fully recovered

A total of 68,306 cars were built in the UK in April 2021, up 34,573 per cent from last year’s factory shutdowns, but still short of pre-Covid levels

Production line

UK car production was in reasonable health last month, with 68,306 cars built here in April 2021. This is a 34,573.1 per cent increase on April 2020, when lockdown restrictions kept factories closed and just 197 cars were manufactured.

April’s production figures were 3.8 per cent down on the same month in 2019, though, while year-to-date production for 2021 of 374,864 cars shows a similar trend: up 17.3 per cent on the same period in 2020, but down 15 per cent on 2019.

Compared with the five-year averages, April 2021 was down 42.9 per cent for the month, and January to April 2021 was down 31.1 per cent. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which provided the figures, says this represents “the scale of the challenge” facing the UK car industry.

Of the cars built in the UK in April, 22.8 per cent were electric, plug-in hybrid and conventional hybrid models. Year to date, production of these alternatively fuelled vehicles has grown 33.1 per cent compared with the same period in 2019.

So far this year, there has been a 3.1 per cent decline in UK-built cars destined for the domestic market, while 22.5 per cent more have been exported. Some 83.3 per cent of UK-built cars are made for overseas markets, with 52.1 per cent sent to the EU, 17.4 per cent to the US and 7.4 per cent to China.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said: “April’s figures were always going to be exceptional, as factories were closed at this time last year amid the first wave of the pandemic. However, the situation for UK car manufacturers remains challenging, particularly with the worldwide shortage of semiconductors affecting output.

“While it’s good news that the UK is on track with its Covid roadmap back to normality, we still need strong domestic demand and given we’re export-led, confident overseas markets to drive a recovery, both for the automotive sector and for the wider economy.”

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