UK car production fell 14 per cent last month – the worst February for more than a decade, new figures show.
Data published today from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows 105,008 units left factory gates during the month – 17,163 fewer compared to February 2020.
The SMMT said it was the 18th consecutive month of decline and the weakest February performance in more than a decade.
Lockdowns, new customs processes and global supply chain constraints continued to influence output, the body said.
Production for the domestic market fell 34.9 per cent, a loss of 9,480 units, compared with a less severe 8.1 per cent fall in exports, down 7,683 units.
Overseas orders still accounted for by far the majority (83.2 per cent) of all cars made in the month, with most of these (53.9 per cent) heading into the EU.
February shipments to the US and Asia combined amounted to 30.9 per cent of all UK car exports.
The recent strong growth in UK output of battery electric (BEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and hybrid vehicles (HEV) continued in February, with total production of these vehicles surging 25.3 per cent to 23,019 units.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: ‘A year into the pandemic, these figures are yet more evidence of how badly coronavirus has hit UK car production.
‘Thankfully, there are some rays of light with UK showrooms due to reopen on April 12, vaccinations progressing and a roadmap to kickstart the economy.
‘The automotive sector can play a crucial role in getting the UK back on its feet, supporting jobs across the country, driving growth and helping the country transition to zero emission mobility.
‘However, the UK is not isolated from global issues and our automotive industry still needs a stable and secure international market in order to prosper.’
Meanwhile, the latest independent production base outlook forecasts UK car production to get on the road to recovery in 2021 at 1.05m units – up 15.8 per cent on 2020 which was the worst annual total since 1984.
The outlook forecasts car production hitting 1.1m in 2022, with the potential for additional growth but still below the 1.3m units turned out in 2019 pre-pandemic.
Wider concerns – not just Covid-19
What Car? editorial director, Jim Holder, said there are wider issues that need addressing rather than just the immediate concern of Covid-19.
‘The future of Ellesmere Port still hangs in the balance, with thousands employed either directly or indirectly by the plant,’ he said.
‘The government has previously spoken about a 10-point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution which includes “backing our world-leading manufacturing bases”.
‘With Ellesmere Port looking to transform into an electric vehicle manufacturing site, the government has the opportunity to back its pledge.’
Holder added investment into ‘localised battery production’ will be ‘crucial’ and changes to the Plug-in Car Grant ‘place an unnecessary burden on the sector’.
Yesterday, SMMT chief Hawes called on the government to stop playing a game of ‘snakes and ladders’ with consumers and instead encourage them to make the switch to electric vehicles.
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