The UK’s commercial vehicle manufacturing sector suffered in August amid the global microchip shortage, according to new figures. The latest data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows just over 3,000 new commercial vehicles were built in this country in August.

A total of 3,179 new commercial vehicles, including vans, were built on these shores in August – down by around 35 percent compared with the same time last year. The number of commercial vehicles built for foreign customers in August fell 19.3 percent, but exports still accounted for around two-thirds of the total output.

That was partly because the number of vehicles produced for the UK market was so low, making up just 35 percent of the market. A mere 1,124 new commercial vehicles were built for customers in the UK in August – down 52.3 percent on the same month last year.

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According to the SMMT, the semiconductor shortages and “variations in summer shutdowns” were to blame for the lacklustre performance. The chip shortage has been an issue for most of this year, and although those following the fortunes of the UK car industry may not be surprised by the news, this result comes off the back of five months of continuous growth for the sector. However, those figures have been artificially inflated by a torrid 2020 that saw production grind to a halt for long periods.

During the first eight months of 2021, more than 43,000 new commercial vehicles were built in the UK, up 18.2 percent on the 36,000 or so built during the same period last year. But the SMMT says that figure is down by more than 20 percent on the “pre-Covid average”, which averages the January-August performance for the five years from 2015 to 2019.

Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s Chief Executive, said the chip shortage shows no sign of stopping, and claimed manufacturers would need to “fight” to keep output up.

“After five months of consecutive growth it is disappointing to see the steady recovery of the commercial vehicle sector stall in August,” he said. “This is primarily due to the global shortage of semiconductors, which continues to challenge the industry. With the lack of available chips expected to continue beyond next year, manufacturers will need to fight to keep production lines operational as they look to ensure that the newest and greenest zero-emission-capable commercial vehicles, that suit the needs of both operators and drivers, are made in the UK.”

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