British car production falls to lowest level since 1950s

British automobile manufacturing fell to the bottom stage in additional than half a century throughout 2022, after a yr tainted by provide chain disruption and a spate of manufacturing unit closures.

The variety of automobiles produced fell 9.8 per cent to 775,014, the worst yr since 1956, in accordance with figures launched by the Society of Motor Producers and Merchants on Thursday.

Whereas the worldwide trade remains to be hamstrung by a world semiconductor scarcity and sporadic components provides from China, a number of UK plant closures through the previous two years depressed the numbers additional.

Honda’s Swindon facility, which produced about 100,000 fashions a yr, closed in 2021 whereas the Stellantis web site at Ellesmere Port ceased making the Vauxhall Astra final yr, to be able to put together to make a brand new electrical van, which is able to begin this yr.

A number of crops had been hit by provide chain issues through the yr, with BMW’s Mini plant affected by provide of wiring harnesses made in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion. A number of crops had been additionally hit by components shortages from China, the place factories needed to cease all of the sudden owing to Covid-19 shutdowns.

As well as, gross sales to Russia — which was within the high 10 export markets throughout 2021 — ceased earlier within the yr following the invasion of Ukraine.

As carmakers have struggled to safe sufficient chips to make their autos, they’ve prioritised probably the most worthwhile fashions. Whereas this helped some UK factories corresponding to VW’s Bentley and BMW’s Rolls-Royce, it could have damage Toyota, which makes its bigger fashions abroad.

Manufacturing is anticipated to select up once more this yr, as the worldwide chip scarcity eases, and because the Ellesmere Port plant comes again on-line.

However even with automobile output predicted to extend by 15 per cent, the general quantity will nonetheless be 40 per cent decrease than earlier than the pandemic, the SMMT mentioned.

“We enter this yr with a level of optimism,” mentioned Mike Hawes, SMMT chief government. “2020 was dangerous, 21 was worse and 22 was even worse. The one means is up from right here.”

UK van manufacturing, predominantly based mostly on the Stellantis-owned Luton plant, was a vivid spot final yr, with a 40 per cent enhance owing to robust international demand.

Electrical and hybrid autos had been one other spotlight and now account for one-third of general manufacturing. Led by the electrical Mini, the Nissan Leaf and the hybrid Toyota Corolla, the numbers of those low-emission fashions rose by 40 per cent to 234,000.

The SMMT forecasts that UK crops won’t attain 1mn autos a yr till a minimum of 2025, based mostly on unbiased projections.

The determine, which remains to be formidable given final yr’s numbers, is half the long run goal of 2mn autos that the trade harboured again in 2015, when carmaking was at document ranges.

The yr additionally noticed Nissan overtake Jaguar Land Rover to grow to be the UK’s largest automobile producer, helped by each its electrical Leaf automobile and a pointy slide in JLR’s personal manufacturing.

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