May 23, 2022

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Half the Automotive

UK car production drop to lowest since 1956

car production

Car production in the UK saw its worst year since 1956 in 2021, with only 859,575 built. Photo:Phil Noble/Reuters

Car production in the UK last year plummeted to its lowest level since 1956, with parts shortage, staff absences and factory closures all battering the automotive industry.

Data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed output dropped by 6.7% to 859,575 cars made in the UK in 2021 – over 61,000 less than 2020 and a fall of 34% compared to 2019, when over 1.3m cars rolled off the production lines.

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The ongoing global shortage of semiconductor chips – between 1,500 and 3,000 of which are used in the manufacturing of a typical modern car – was the main problem, causing factories to reduce or even pause production.

“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,” SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said.

But there were other factors affecting production too. These included the closure of Honda’s Swindon factory, Covid-related issues like staff shortages and border controls following Brexit.

However, Hawes suggested that despite the difficult year there was cause for optimism, largely because of the announcement of £4.9bn in planned new investments, many of them in electric vehicles or technology.

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“Despite this miserable year, there is optimism. With Brexit uncertainty largely overcome, investments have been unleashed, most of which will help transform the sector to its zero-emission future,” he said.

British factories turned out a record number of alternatively fuelled vehicles, namely EVs and hybrids, last year, as 224,011 rolled off production lines.This represented 26.% of all new cars built.

Four out of five new cars were shipped overseas, with the European Union being the biggest market at 55%, followed by the United States.

Jaguar Land Rover was Britain’s biggest car maker in 2021, with 220,554 units, followed by Nissan with 204,522 and BMW’s Mini with 186,762 vehicles.

Watch more: UK car production hits 65-year low