28 Feb 2024

Lowest May for car production since 1946

You would have to go back to 1946 to find a May where UK car production was as low as in 2020, according to the latest figures released today (Friday 26 June) by the SMMT.

UK car manufacturing output fell 95.4% in May with just 5,314 vehicles rolling off production lines. This was still an improvement on April however, when only 197 units were built.   While two thirds of the UK’s automotive plants started getting back to business during the month, capacity was severely held back by COVID-19 social distancing requirements and reduced demand, with key global markets only just beginning to reopen and the UK remaining in lockdown.

Despite the month-on month upswing from April to May, British garages may find their customers will be keeping their trusty existing car. Of the total produced in the month, 4,260 cars were exported, mainly into the EU, the US and China. With English car showrooms not reopening until 1 June, only 1,054 models were built for domestic buyers.  

According to SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes, the figures highlight the need for ongoing government support beyond the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in October:  “May’s figures are yet more evidence of why the UK industry, like its global rivals, needs dedicated support to drive a successful restart. Government assistance so far has been vital in keeping many businesses afloat, but the job isn’t done. Measures to boost cashflow, including additional and tailored finance schemes, tax relief and business rates deferral would deliver immediate results when liquidity is most acute.

“We have to retain the highly skilled jobs the sector provides but also ensure the business conditions are competitive so we can unlock the investment that will drive long-term recovery – a green recovery – which is inextricably linked the sector’s success.”