UK car production volumes plummeted between January and March of 2022

The crippling effect of the semi-conductor shortage will continue to be felt by the UK’s car manufacturing sector well into next year, a leading trade body has warned.

Last month, car production volumes continued to spiral downwards as less than 76,000 units were built across the four weeks of November. That meant it was the worst on record since 1984, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

A drop in output of 28.7% was the fifth consecutive month of decline for the car building sector, with more than 80% of these being sent for export. Two-thirds of these ended up in Europe with Asia taking 15.6%, the US 13.4% and Australia 1.2%

To date, UK car plants have turned out 797,261 units, some 432,794 less than 2019 before the COVID-19 health pandemic struck.

The SMMT said the bleak picture is being compounded by the closure of Honda’s Swindon plant back in July, and that the “situation will impact year-on-year comparisons until July 2022”.

At the time of announcing the closure, the Japanese manufacturer said it had made the decision “with a heavy heart” as it affected the livelihoods of 3,500 workers, some of who were based there for most of the plant’s 35-year existence.

Commenting on the latest figures, Mike Hawes – the SMMT’s Chief Executive – said: “These are incredibly worrying figures, underscoring the severity of situation facing the automotive industry.

“COVID is impacting supply chains massively, causing global shortages – especially of semiconductors – which is likely to affect the sector throughout next year.

“With an increasingly negative economic backdrop, rising inflation and COVID resurgent home and abroad, the circumstances are the toughest in decades.

“With output massively down for the past five months and likely to continue, maintaining cashflow, especially in the supply chain, is of vital importance.

“We have to look to government to provide support measures in the same way it is recognising other COVID-impacted sectors,” he added.

It was not all bad news, however, as the production of UK battery electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid cars took a record share of production. They accounted for 32.7% of all cars made in the month, and 25.5% over the year-to-date.

Battery electric vehicle output was up in November by 52.9% to 10,359 units, hitting a new high of 13.7% of all production totals – more than double the level a year ago.

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