UK car production rises but still down on five-year average

Manufacturing rose 46.6 per cent year-on-year in March 2021, but was still 22.8 per cent lower than the five-year March average

Production line

Car production in the UK rose 46.6 per cent in March 2021 compared with the same month last year, when the first national lockdown shut factories.

Despite being the first year-on-year increase for 18 months, the 115,498 cars built were still 22.8 per cent down on the five-year March average, while Q1 2021 is down four per cent year-on-year.

March 2021 saw a 19.4 per cent increase in cars built in the UK for the domestic market to 20,269 units, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) while overseas demand rose 54.1 per cent 95,229 cars. Some 82.5 per cent of cars built in the UK in March were sent abroad.

Exports to the EU, US and Asia were up by 33.5 per cent, 36.4 per cent and 54.1 per cent, respectively. The EU remained the biggest market, meanwhile, taking 51.9 per cent of UK-built cars during the month. Furthermore, electric, plug-in hybrid and conventional hybrid cars made up 21.5 per cent of cars produced - up from 13.7 per cent in March 2020.

Following the end of the Brexit transition period, the SMMT says 91 per cent of its members are having to spend more time and resources managing UK-EU trade than in 2020, while 36 per cent are choosing to devote more resources to trade with the rest of the world.

A further 60 per cent of firms say they expect their Covid recovery to take at least six months, with a third of these thinking it will be a minimum of two years. Nevertheless, the SMMT forecasts that more than a million cars will be built in the UK in 2021 - 130,000 more than in 2020 when production fell to its lowest level since 1984.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said: “The first rise for UK car production since summer 2019 is a major step in the right direction, but belies the underlying situation. With factories shut for much of March 2020, output was always going to be up, but it remains below average, with some £11bn worth of production lost over the past year.”

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