The number of cars UK factories built last month rose but production is still down on pre-pandemic levels, new figures show.
Data published today (May 27) by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows 68,306 cars were built in April – a dramatic increase on the 197 cars that were built in the same month a year ago when Covid restrictions effectively stopped production.
In the year to date, 374,864 cars have rolled out of UK factories – down by 15 per cent on the same four-month period in 2019.
Compared with a five-year average, production was down 42.9 per cent last month and by almost a third for January to April.
The SMMT also said April’s figures showed an increasing shift towards electrified vehicles, with more than one in five cars being battery electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid.
So far this year, alternatively fuelled model production is up by a third on the same period in 2019.
The EU remains the most important destination for British cars, taking 52 per cent of all exports, followed by the US (17.4 per cent) and China (7.4 per cent), said the SMMT.
Chief executive Mike Hawes said: ‘April’s figures were always going to be exceptional as factories were closed at this time last year 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 road map 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.’
What Car?’s Jim Holder also agreed there are still areas of concern in the months ahead.
He said: ‘The latest manufacturing figures show an industry in recovery, which is welcome to both dealers and manufacturers.
‘Our research of in-market buyers continues to show strong levels of demand in the market, with 31 per cent looking to buy in the next three months.
‘It will be crucial that the government’s Covid roadmap stays on track, with dealers allowed to stay open, as showroom closures will undoubtedly have another significant impact on production lines.
‘Another source of concern for the industry is the continuing microchip shortage, which is affecting both lead times and vehicle specification levels.
‘Our latest research of 1920 in-market buyers has found 38 per cent of new car buyers are not willing to wait more than two months for their car. If waiting times cannot be met, 35 per cent of buyers tell us they will look at existing stock or used models instead, which will add pressure to the already inflated used car market.’