ellesmere port car manufacturing factory

UK car manufacturers show only partial recovery from Covid-19 slump

Image credit: Dreamstime

UK car manufacturers are seeing a recovery from the Covid-19-induced slump but are still outputting at levels not seen since 1953 as the global chip shortage and other factors continued to take a toll on production.

The latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed that UK car factories turned out 69,097 units in June, a significant improvement on last year, but still worse than 2019.

The performance rounded off a turbulent first six months for UK car production, with the pandemic, new trading rules with Europe and supply issues causing ongoing challenges.

498,923 units rolled off production lines, down -38.4 per cent on the five-year, first-half average representing a loss of 311,160 cars worth more than £8.5bn.

Exports continued to sustain British car manufacturing with more than eight in ten (83.4 per cent) models made here so far this year shipped overseas. More than half of these (51.7 per cent) headed into the EU, with the US the UK’s next most important global market (taking 18.8 per cent of exports) followed by China (7.8 per cent), Japan (1.9 per cent) and Australia (1.8 per cent).

UK production of battery electric (BEV), plug in hybrid (PHEV) and hybrid electric (HEV) vehicles, meanwhile, remained steady year-to-date with around a quarter (22.6 per cent) of all cars alternatively fuelled.

But with the Government being warned it faces a “huge challenge” phasing out new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, the industry will need to accelerate the transition to zero emission vehicles.

This will require significant investment into vehicle manufacturing, battery production and supply chain transformation, the SMMT said.

Despite the easing of Covid restrictions, manufacturers are experiencing staff shortages due to self-isolation requirements imposed by the NHS Covid-19 app or contact tracers.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “While the UK automotive industry continues to suffer the effects of the global pandemic, with first half year production down significantly and a tough few months looming, the sector has the capability to recover.

“The latest investments into new models and battery production show a bright future is within reach, yet the industry still faces headwinds most notably from global semiconductor shortages and staff absenteeism as a result of staff being ‘pinged’.

“Businesses have ensured their facilities are Covid secure but urgent action is needed, such as bringing forward the 16 August target date for exempting fully vaccinated adults from self-isolation and introducing a “test to release” scheme to support those employees not yet fully vaccinated.”

There has been some positive news for the UK car sector however, Japanese firm Nissan recently said it would pour £1bn into a UK-based manufacturing plant for creating a next-generation electric vehicle and its batteries. 

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