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UK car manufacturing goes up for the first time in 18 months

  • 115,498 cars rolled off the production lines in March – a 47 per cent rise on the year before
  • SMMT hails increase hailed as major step forward, but says it was inevitable
  • Five-year average falls by just over 20 per cent

Time 6 months ago

Car production in the UK has risen for the first time following an 18-month decline, figures out today (Apr 29) show.

The SMMT said 115,498 cars were built in March – 47 per cent more than in March last year, when only 78,767 cars had left factory gates after the coronavirus crisis caused all UK automotive plants to close in the middle of the month.

It added that the figures were a ‘major step in the right direction’ but pointed out that with factories shut for much of March 2020, output was always going to be higher this year.


Compared with the five-year March average, production was down by just over a fifth.

March production for the domestic market rose by 19.4 per cent to 20,269 units, and exports went up by 54 per cent to 95,229 units.

More than four out of five cars made last month were for export, with shipments to major destinations rising ‘dramatically’ versus 2020, said the trade body.

Exports to the EU, US and Asia all went up in March – by 33.5 per cent, 36.4 per cent and 54.1 per cent respectively.

The EU was still the number one market for UK-made cars, with just over half of all exported cars heading there.

Combined output of battery-electric (BEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and hybrid vehicles (HEV) was 20 per cent of all cars built last month, which was up from 13.7 per cent a year ago.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: ‘The first rise for UK car production since summer 2019 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 £11bn worth of production lost over the past year.

‘Whilst the Covid situation is improving in the UK and in some major export markets, manufacturers are still struggling to manage residual issues, most notably the global semiconductor shortage.’

He added: ‘The shift towards electrified vehicle production is fundamental to the future of this vital sector.

‘Securing investment for this transformation will depend on the global competitiveness of our industry.

‘Companies are already having to absorb additional costs arising from our new trading arrangements with the EU, but must also invest in new technologies, new processes and upskilling the workforce.’

The SMMT has predicted that more than a million cars will be built this year, which is 130,000 more than in 2020 when the pandemic caused production to fall to its lowest level since 1984.

John Bowman's avatar

John has been with Car Dealer since 2013 after spending 25 years in the newspaper industry as a reporter then a sub-editor/assistant chief sub-editor on regional and national titles. John is chief sub-editor in the editorial department, working on Car Dealer, as well as handling social media.

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