UK new car production plummeted in July as a global chip shortage, summer shutdowns and the ‘pingdemic’ all took their toll. Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed UK factories posted their lowest output for the month of July since the mid-1950s.

In total, the data showed 53,438 new passenger cars were built on these shores last month – down from more than 85,000 during the same month in 2020. That meant output was down 37.6 percent compared with July 2020 – just a few weeks after the coronavirus lockdown restrictions were lifted.

Production was equally low for both exported vehicles and those destined for the UK, with both sectors down by just under 40 percent. However, that meant exports still took the lion’s share of production, with more than 45,000 cars (84.6 percent of the total) heading to customers abroad.

Nissan LEAF production in Sunderland, UK

The SMMT said the reduction was down to the global chip shortage that has limited the number of cars that can be built, as well as the so-called ‘pingdemic’, which has seen factory staff forced to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone with coronavirus. The organisation also said planned factory shutdowns, which allow for important tasks such as machinery maintenance to be carried out, had impacted production.

There was good news for the electric car fans, though, as more than a quarter of all the new cars built in the UK in July were either hybrid or electric. That’s the highest share of the output on record, and it brings the total number of hybrid and electric vehicles produced in the UK this year to more than 126,700.

MINI Electric at Plant Oxford

A small crumb of comfort could also be found by comparing 2021 output with the previous year. Overall, during the first seven months of the year, more than 552,000 cars were built in the UK – an increase of 18.3 percent compared with the same period in the coronavirus-affected 2020. But when you compare the output with pre-pandemic levels, it’s down 28.7 percent compared with 2019.

“These figures lay bare the extremely tough conditions UK car manufacturers continue to face,” said Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive. “While the impact of the ‘pingdemic’ will lessen as self-isolation rules change, the worldwide shortage of semiconductors shows little sign of abating.

“The UK automotive industry is doing what it can to keep production lines going, testament to the adaptability of its workforce and manufacturing processes, but Government can help by continuing the supportive Covid measures currently in place and boosting our competitiveness with a reduction in energy levies and business rates for a sector that is strategically important in delivering net zero.”