News | Published May 31 2020

UK car manufacturing output falls

Over April, British car manufacturing output fell by 99.7 per cent compared to the same month in 2019.

The plunge reflects the first full month of the Covid-19 lockdown, which saw the lowest output levels in the sector since the Second World War, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders [SMMT].

Several plants redirected their supply lines to manufacture personal protective equipment for front-line workers. Meanwhile, a mere 197 premium and luxury sports vehicles were manufactured in April by brands such as McLaren, Bentley and Rolls Royce, since they were almost fully assembled by the time production halted.

Face shields, visors and protective gowns were among the items produced by car manufacturers, while Rolls Royce and McLaren were two names to have contributed to the effort to manufacture ventilators for Covid-19 patients.

The loss in car production is expected to see the industry miss out on £12.5 billion in revenue.

Meanwhile, 830 new car engines were made at UK plants during the month, with 781 of those exported. Engine manufacturing output was down by 99.5 per cent on the previous April.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “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.”

Hawes hinted that getting the sector going again would be a “gradual” process despite employees returning to work this week, due to having to stagger shifts and production timetables to adhere to social distancing.

The SMMT has suggested that production workers should be provided with PPE and carry out work with fixed teams to limit workplace interaction.

Elsewhere, unions have called on the government to get behind the sector as it looks to get back on its feet.

Unite union’s assistant general secretary, Steve Turner, said: "We urgently need a sector plan to support the UK's world class auto industry through this crisis, with investment to defend jobs and support for a transition to electrification.

"The French and German governments have wasted no time in getting behind their manufacturing workers. The UK government needs to match this ambition, proudly talking up our manufacturing champions and working with unions to recover and meet the challenges of the future, sustaining and creating quality jobs and apprenticeships.”

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Authored by

Alexander Bridge-Wilkinson
Junior Editor
May 31 2020

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