UK car production: Worst since 1956

Published:  27 January, 2022

UK car production in 2021 was the lowest since 1956 according to the latest figures from the SMMT, eclipsing even 2020 as the effect off the worldwide semiconductor shortage, staff shortages and the ongoing aftershocks of the Coronavirus lockdowns continued to impact on the sector.

859, 575 cars were built in the UK during the year, 6.7% down on 2020, which was itself a historically bad year for car production as a result of the pandemic. Taking COVID-19 out of the picture, production in 2021 was 34% down on 2019.

Roughly a quarter of the decline was the result There were also non-Covid issues behind this fall, most notably the closure of Honda’s Swindon plant in July, which made up around a quarter of the overall drop.

One bright spot was battery electric (BEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) production, with 224,011 made, which was a new record. In all, they made up 26.1% of all cars made. Within that total, BEVs were up 72.0%, with hybrids up 16.4%.

Around eight in 10 cars were built for export. Production for overseas fell by 5.8% to 705,826 units, but domestic production fell further, down -10.6% to 153,749.

Commenting on the figures, SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said: “2021 was another incredibly difficult year for UK car manufacturing, one of the worst since the Second World War which lays bare the exposure of the sector to structural and, especially, Covid-related impacts. Despite this miserable year, there is optimism. With Brexit uncertainty largely overcome with the TCA deal, investments have been unleashed, most of which will help transform the sector to its zero-emission future. This is a vote of global confidence in the UK but must be matched by a commitment to our long-term competitiveness; support for the supply chain in overcoming parts shortages, help with skills and training and, most urgently, measures to mitigate the escalating energy costs which are threatening viability.”

The latest independent production outlook for 2022 forecasts UK car production to go up to more than 1 million units, a 19.7% increase on 2021, despite the closure of Honda in Swindon. With favourable conditions, car production could 1.1 million in 2025, with further growth after that.

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