UK car output drops 14% for worst February in a decade

UK car production fell for the 18th consecutive month in February, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Some 14% fewer vehicles were produced by the UK’s makers than in the same month in 2020. This amounted to a loss of 17,163 units, as output dropped from 122,171 vehicles to 105,008, and the weakest performance for a February for more than a decade.

As in previous months, production for the domestic market was most severely impacted, falling by 9,480 units (-34.9%). Exports experienced a relatively mild 7,683 fall (-8.1%).

Despite the ongoing logistical and economic implications of Brexit, the EU remains Britain’s biggest foreign car buyer as more than 50% (53.9%) of exports were bound for Europe where demand for UK vehicles remains relatively high.

That compares with the 30.9% of exported cars which made their way to the US and Asia. The SMMT said the disparity underscores “the importance of harmonious trading relationships with the sector’s largest and closest market”.

While overall production was down from February 2020, production for electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid and hybrid vehicles increased by 23,019 units (25.3%), suggesting the rollout of various government initiatives such as the introduction of Clean Air Zones and improved EV charger infrastructure is driving more people to consider EVs.

This month marks the one-year anniversary of the implementation of the first pandemic-induced lockdown. The pandemic has dramatically damaged the UK’s new car output, but the SMMT is optimistic for a recovery as car retailers gear up to reopen on 12 April.

SMMT boss Mike Hawes 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.”