Car production recovery continues through May

UK car production rose dramatically in May, but supply chain challenges could hinder recovery.

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), some 54,962 cars rolled off production lines last month compared to just 5,314 a year ago, when coronavirus halted manufacturing.

Performance, however, is still far below pre-pandemic levels, down 52.6% on the same month in 2019.

So far this year UK factories have turned out 429,826 cars, up some 105,063 units on last year, the majority (95.3%) of the additional volume built for export, but overall output remains down 22.9% on the same five-month period in 2019.

Alternative fuelled vehicles continue to rise in popularity – 19.2% of all UK car output was battery electric and hybrid cars, while in the year-to-date one in five vehicles manufactured in the UK were alternatively-fuelled models.

However, this share drops to one in 16 for pure battery electric vehicles and one in six for hybrid cars.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: May’s figures continue to look inflated when compared to last year’s near total standstill of production lines. The recovery of car production is, however, still massively challenged here and abroad by global supply shortages, particularly semiconductors. If the UK is to remain competitive, therefore, it must ensure it has a globally attractive policy framework for both vehicle production and the supply chain.

“Accelerating zero emission car production is part of this package, so while one in five models made here this year is alternatively fuelled, we need to drive investment in R&D, charging infrastructure and the market to ensure we can deliver the net zero future society demands.”