April UK car production rebounds, but remains short of recovery

Automotive Industry

Source: SMMT, 2021-05-27

  • UK factories turn out 68,306 cars in April, up dramatically on pandemic hit month in 2020 but still -3.8% below 2019 output.

  • 374,864 cars made since January, up on 2020, but down -15.0% on same period in 2019.

  • So far in 2021 some eight in ten cars exported to global markets including the EU, US and China

UK car production rose significantly, but artificially, in April 2021 according to the latest figures released on 27 May by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Britain made 68,306 cars compared to just 197 in 2020 when Covid restrictions effectively halted manufacturing. The performance was -3.8% below the April 2019 output. So far this year UK factories have turned out 374,864 cars, with April’s performance offsetting earlier declines to drive a 17.3% overall increase, but -15.0% down on the same four-month period in 2019. 

When compared with a five-year average, production was down -42.9% for the month and -31.1% for the period January – April, reflecting the scale of the challenge facing the industry as it seeks to recover from the pandemic.

The April figures also reveal UK automotive manufacturing’s increasing shift towards electrified vehicles. In the month, 22.8% of all UK car manufacturing was for battery electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid cars, while in the year-to-date alternatively fuelled model production is up 33.1% on the same period in 2019, demonstrating the UK industry’s commitment to meeting demand for these ultra-low and zero emission vehicles. Compared with 2020, since January, production for the UK market has declined -3.1% while car exports have risen 22.5% with more than eight in every ten (83.3%) cars made shipped overseas. So far in 2021 the European Union remains by far the most important destination for British cars, taking 52.1% of all exports, followed by the US (17.4%) and China (7.4%). 

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: ''April’s figures were always going to be exceptional as factories were closed at this time in 2020 amid the first wave of the pandemic. However, 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.''

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