Car production falls for an 18th consecutive month in February


Car production falls for an 18th consecutive month as outputs slip to a decade low in February

  • Some 105,000 new motors came off UK assembly lines last month, SMMT says
  • It is the lowest output in a February since 2010, official figures have confirmed
  • Four in five new models built in the UK are exported – most to EU countries 

The number of cars built in UK factories has fallen for the 18th month in a row as the automotive sector continues to be battered by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Production fell by 14 per cent in February compared with the same month a year ago, with 105,008 units coming off assembly lines, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

It was the weakest February performance in more than a decade, fuelled by the pandemic that led to showrooms closing, new customs processes and global supply chain constraints.

Production slump rages on: Outputs of new cars in the UK fell for an 18th consecutive month in February, new stats released today confirm

Production slump rages on: Outputs of new cars in the UK fell for an 18th consecutive month in February, new stats released today confirm

Production for the domestic market fell by 34.9 per cent, and by 8.1 per cent for exports, said the SMMT.

As has been the case in recent years, overseas orders drove production outputs.

Export accounted for more than four out of five cars made last month, with most of these heading into the EU.

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 increasing by a quarter to 23,019 units.

The SMMT said the figures come against a backdrop of car showrooms being closed for months, issues with supply of some components, and the UK’s new trading arrangements, which were all putting additional burdens on operations.

A year ago, 122,171 new models were built in the UK in the second month. This year, February production is down to 105,008 units

A year ago, 122,171 new models were built in the UK in the second month. This year, February production is down to 105,008 units

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders confirmed this is the worst February production output since 2010

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders confirmed this is the worst February production output since 2010

Export accounted for more than four out of five cars made last month, with most of these heading into the EU

Export accounted for more than four out of five cars made last month, with most of these heading into the EU

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 kick-start 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.’

Rebecca Shalom, UK sector leader for Industrial Manufacturing at KPMG, said the latest figures suggest ‘ongoing caution from manufacturers about how quickly consumer demand will return’ and added ‘enduring issues in the supply chain will continue to put the brakes on production in the short-term’.  

‘While the opening of car showrooms in April should provide some relief for car registrations, fragile consumer confidence, economic pressures and uncertainty about hybrid working arrangements may dampen the growth curve,’ she warned. 

The latest forecasts are for car production to reach 1.05 million this year, up 15.8 per cent on the year before, hitting 1.1 million in 2022.

UK commercial vehicle production also declined last month, down 45.4 per cent on the second month of 2020 to make it the worst February for outputs on record.

Just 4,308 units were built, marking a fifth consecutive month of decline for vans and trucks as supply chain shortages, new customs processes and prolonged lockdown measures across the globe affected output. 

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