UK new car production soars 46.6% as lockdown eases

UK car production increased by 46.6% last month, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), with most factories operating at near-capacity a year since the first national lockdown brought nearly the entire industry to a halt.

In March 2021, a total of 115,498 cars were manufactured on UK shores, compared with 78,767 in March 2020, when factories were forcibly closed as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.

However, despite the rise, production is lagging 22.9% – or 24,047 cars – behind the five-year March average.

SMMT boss Mike Hawes said: “The first rise for UK car production in 18 months 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 £11 billion worth of production lost over the past year.”

Beyond the pandemic, the rise in production was driven by a firm jump in exports, as 95,229 cars were shipped abroad last month – 54% more than in March 2020.

Within that, exports to the EU, US and Asia were up by 33.5%, 36.4% and 54.1% respectively.

Meanwhile, production for the domestic market also played a role, rising 19.4%.

Most encouragingly for the UK government’s environmental efforts, including its planned 2030 ban on the sale of all new ICE cars, demand for hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric cars increased 13.7% year-on-year, with the result that 20% of cars now produced in the UK are alternatively fuelled.