The permanent closure of Honda’s Swindon plant continues to have a negative effect on international export numbers

For the first time in almost a year, car manufacturing in the UK enjoyed positive growth, according to data released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Last month, build volumes of passenger cars rose by 13.3% to 62,684 after 10 consecutive months of decline, with the production of battery electric vehicles more than doubling to 4,525 units.

Production for both overseas and domestic markets increased by 8.9% and 39.5% respectively. Exports accounted for 82.1% of all new cars built, with almost two thirds of these destined for the European market, it emerged.

Despite the generally positive outlook, it does come with some caveats. Shipments to the United States decreased by 35.4% – the legacy of Honda’s Swindon plant closing its doors for good last summer.

Last May, car factories were still grappling with the effects of the COVID pandemic whereas 12 months on, there is a greater degree of normality as most facilities are back to full operating capacity.

In the year to date, overall output has decreased by more than a fifth (23.2%) compared to the same period last year, with supply chain constraints such as the shortage of semi-conductors constricting volume. Going into June, just 330,185 units have rolled off lines – a shortfall of some 99,641.

Meanwhile, the SMMT is calling on the government to act urgently in the midst of record energy price rises. It puts the “uplift” at £90m and says steps must be taken to ensure the UK car industry remains competitive in a post-Brexit era.

Mike Hawes – Chief Executive of the SMMT – said: “May’s return to growth for UK car output is hugely welcome after 10 months of decline, indicating the sector’s fundamental resilience.

“Any recovery, however, will be gradual as supply chain deliveries remain erratic, business costs volatile and geopolitical instability still very real. With the industry racing to decarbonise, we need to safeguard manufacturing competitiveness, drive investment and develop the skill base.

“Government and industry have a role to play in this transformation and collaboration will be essential if the UK is to remain at the forefront of automotive innovation,” he added.

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