UK new car output down 20.8% in July as recovery continues

UK new car production dropped 20.8% year on year last month, as the sector continues to recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Although the 85,696 units produced in July fell short of the 108,239 built in the same period last year, the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) suggest that the sector is continuing on the road to recovery after the coronavirus-induced general shutdown. The 20.8% July fall follows year-on-year drops of 94.5% in May and 42.8% in June.

Factories and dealerships have mostly reopened, but the SMMT said social-distancing measures and general economic uncertainty have “stifled output”.

Production for the UK market remains particularly hard hit, with just 13,434 units produced – down 37.1% on July 2019. Exports – down 16.8% – accounted for more than 80% of all new cars built, totalling 72,262 units.

The latest figures mean overall new car production is down 39.7% for the year to date, a slight recovery over June, when the shortfall was measured at 42.1%. The SMMT estimates that 307,707 new cars have been lost as a result of the pandemic.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: ““As key global markets continue to reopen and UK car plants gradually get back to business, these figures are a marked improvement on the previous three months, but the outlook remains deeply uncertain.

“With the sector now battling economic recession as well as a global pandemic, it has neither the time nor capacity to deal with the further shock of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

“The impact of tariffs on the sector and the hundreds of thousands of livelihoods it supports would be devastating, so we need negotiators on both sides to pull out all of the stops to ensure a comprehensive free-trade deal is agreed and in place before the end of 2020.”