UK car production fell to its lowest level since the Second World War in April, down 99.7%, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
As the coronavirus crisis forced plants to close, just 197 premium, luxury and sports cars left factory gates in the month, models that had been assembled prior to shutdowns with only finishing touches needed. Out of this total 152 cars were built for export and 45 for customers in the UK.
In April, instead of making cars for the UK and global export markets, many manufacturers refocused efforts on producing personal protective equipment (PPE), including face shields, visors and medical gowns for use by healthcare professionals. During the pandemic car makers have now made 711,495 pieces of PPE, with others helping make medical equipment, including ventilators as part of the Ventilator Challenge UK Consortium.
With the easing of lockdown restrictions about half of the country’s car and engine plants are now operating, factories are scaling up production along different timescales and, with strict social distancing measures in place, output initially will be restricted with a predicted loss of up to some 400,000 units by year end, compared with the January outlook, and a cost to industry of up to £12.5bn at factory gate prices.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes commented: “With the UK’s car plants mothballed in April, these figures aren’t surprising but they do highlight the tremendous challenge the industry faces, with revenues effectively slashed to zero last month.
“Manufacturers are starting to emerge from prolonged shutdown into a very uncertain world and ramping up production will be a gradual process, so we need government to work with us to accelerate this fundamentally strong sector’s recovery, stimulate investment and safeguard jobs.
“Support to get all businesses through this short-term turmoil will ensure the UK’s many globally-renowned brands can continue to make the products that remain so desirable to consumers the world over and, in turn, help deliver long-term prosperity for Britain.”