Bentley on the production lineBentley on the production line

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Crises force UK car production down to levels not seen since 1956

  • Just under 53,500 cars rolled off UK production lines in July – the lowest number since 1956
  • Global chip shortage and ‘pingdemic’ crippled production
  • SMMT says UK car industry ‘is ‘doing what it can’ to keep lines moving

Time 4 weeks ago

UK car production ‘plummeted’ last month amid ongoing staff shortages because of the ‘pingdemic’ and the global shortage of microchips, latest figures show.

Data released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed just under 53,500 cars rolled off UK production lines in July – a fall of 37.6 per cent on the same month last year.

July 2021 was the worst July performance since 1956.


Summer shutdowns of factories also affected production, which was down by 38 per cent for the UK to 8,233 while manufacturing for export fell by 37.4 per cent to 45,205.

One in five cars made in July were alternatively fuelled, their highest share on record, said the SMMT.

More than a quarter of all cars made in July were either battery electric (BEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) or hybrid electric (HEV), their highest share on record.

Exports accounted for more than eight out of 10 vehicles built last month.


Car production remains up 18.3 per cent on Covid-hit 2020 at 552,361 units, but is down by 28.7 per cent on 2019 pre-pandemic levels, said the SMMT, adding that production had plummeted last month.

Chief executive Mike Hawes said: ‘These figures lay bare the extremely tough conditions UK car manufacturers continue to face.

‘While the impact of the “pingdemic” will lessen as self-isolation rules change, the worldwide shortage of semiconductors shows little sign of abating.

‘The UK automotive industry is doing what it can to keep production lines going, testament to the adaptability of its workforce and manufacturing processes, but government can help by continuing the supportive Covid measures currently in place and boosting our competitiveness with a reduction in energy levies and business rates for a sector that is strategically important in delivering net zero.’

Jim Holder, editorial director, What Car?, said: ‘The industry crisis surrounding new car production is deepening as the microchip shortage continues. Though July is typically a quiet month for the sector, this month’s results show just how drastic things have become.

‘For new car buyers, this means longer waiting times on certain models and fewer options to choose from, at a time the industry should be on the bounce following months of Covid restrictions.

‘Estimates suggest it won’t be until early 2022 before the supply constraints ease and production levels recover. Until then, manufacturers have to manage customer demand and expectations.’

Richard Peberdy, UK head of automotive at KPMG, said: ‘Supply chain pressures continue to weigh heavy on auto manufacturers as the wider economy edges closer towards recovery.

‘Carmakers will be cursing a mix of factors stifling their ability to produce more vehicles, namely materials and labour shortages and increases to shipping costs.

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‘Manufacturers are absorbing the costs for now, but we could soon see price rises being passed on to consumers should problems persist, which runs the risk of dampening the sales recovery.

‘Many carmakers find themselves in a bind between electric vehicles (EV) and traditional combustion engines. Despite some encouraging EV uptake among consumers, regular petrol cars are still popular because of their lower price point, with some remaining wariness over EV technology and reliance on charging.

‘We can expect more calls from the industry for further government support to help produce the vehicles that will drive us towards a net-zero carbon future.’

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer.

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