The UK car manufacturing sector’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic has been stunted by supply shortages, according to a leading industry body. The latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show the shortages have impacted the sector’s recovery.

According to the organisation, which represents the UK’s car makers and dealers, some 54,962 new cars rolled off British production lines in May. Unsurprisingly, that figure represented an increase of almost 1,000 percent compared with May last year, when factories were closed due to the coronavirus lockdown.

However, last month’s production remains well short of pre-pandemic levels. Compared with the same month in 2019, output was down by a massive 52.6 percent. The SMMT laid the blame for that disappointing result squarely at the door of a global semiconductor shortage.

Nissan LEAF production in Sunderland, UK

As a result, the SMMT data shows just under 430,000 new cars were built in the UK during the first five months of 2021. That’s an increase of more than 100,000 compared with lockdown-hit 2020, when just under 325,000 new cars were built during the first five months of the year.

But the performance is still no match for the levels seen in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic struck. Compared with the same period in that year, the first five months of 2021 saw almost 23 percent fewer cars leave factories in the UK. And if you compare the 2021 output with the five-year average for January to May in 2014-18, production was down by more than 36 percent.

Mini Oxford plant

That’s despite encouraging results of late, which have seen the sector cautiously approaching the levels seen before the pandemic began. Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said the supply shortages were impacting the sector’s ability to recover.

“May’s figures continue to look inflated when compared to last year’s near total standstill of production lines,” he said. “The recovery of car production is, however, still massively challenged here and abroad by global supply shortages, particularly semiconductors.

“If the UK is to remain competitive, therefore, it must ensure it has a globally attractive policy framework for both vehicle production and the supply chain. Accelerating zero emission car production is part of this package, so while one in five models made here this year is alternatively fuelled, we need to drive investment in R&D, charging infrastructure and the market to ensure we can deliver the net-zero future society demands.”