UK car production rose ‘significantly but artificially’ in April

The latest figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that UK car production has risen by 17.3% in the first four months of 2021 compared with the same period last year – but industry bosses have warned that the figures show the challenges facing the industry as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

The SMMT said that although the rise in production is “significant’, the improvement is only “artificial” because “April’s figures were always going to be exceptional as factories were closed at this time last year” during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The SMMT said a total of 68,306 cars were produced in the UK last month, a stark increase on the 197 cars produced during the same period in 2020, when Covid restrictions effectively halted manufacturing. But that figure is 3.8% fewer cars than were produced in April 2019.

Furthermore, when compared with a five-year average, production was down 42.9% for April and 31.1% for the January-April period. The SMMT said this reflects “the scale of the challenge facing the industry as it seeks to recover from the pandemic”.

However, while the overall picture is bleak, there are some positives: production of electrified vehicles has increased. In April, 22.8% of all UK car manufacturing was for battery-electric, plug-in hybrid and self-charging hybrid cars. For January-April, production of electrified cars was up 33.1% compared with 2019.

Similarly, production for foreign markets is in good shape, with more than eight in every 10 (83.3%) of cars made being sent overseas. Some 52.1% of these exports made their way to European Union countries, demonstrating the importance of the UK’s relationship with the EU member states. By contrast, exports to the US comprise only 17.4% of total exports.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “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.”