A mere 15 vans and other light commercial vehicles were built in the UK last month as factories closed down for coronavirus. The latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show the sector has been all but obliterated by the crisis, despite the need for commercial vehicles in key applications, such as ambulances and police vans.

The data shows the tiny number of vans built in this country last month were all existing orders destined for customers in the UK, and most factories shut down altogether as lockdown continued. As a result, the number of vehicles produced was down 99.3 percent compared with the same month in 2019.

But as appalling as those figures may seem, they don’t tell the whole story. April 2019 may not have been as dire as this April, but it still saw an uncommonly low level of van production as factories shut down to mitigate the effects of a no-deal Brexit that never arrived. The fourth month of 2019 saw production fall to just 2,162 units - down from more than 7,400 in April 2018.

Vauxhall Vivaro-e

As a result of this cut in manufacturing, the UK’s predicted output for 2020 has fallen dramatically. As of the end of April, the country had built more than 27 percent fewer vehicles in 2020 than at the same point in 2019.

The news follows SMMT figures showing a similarly dramatic drop-off in passenger car production last month. Just 197 cars were produced in the UK in April, a reduction of 99.7 percent compared with the previous April.

Again, the car production figures were skewed very slightly by the impact of Brexit fears on factories in 2019. With factories shutting down, car production fell in by around 45 percent in the fourth month of that year.

LEVC Van Production

Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said the figures may not come as a surprise, but showed the recovery of the industry was dependent on government support.

“These figures, though unprecedentedly low, are not surprising given the exceptional circumstances,” he said. “However, they do illustrate the incredible challenge facing the UK commercial vehicle sector and, consequently, the wider economy. Production lines are beginning to roll again but, with strict social distancing measures in place, scaling up to full capacity will be a gradual process. To accelerate a sustainable recovery of this critical and fundamentally strong industry and futureproof jobs, we will need government’s ongoing support.”