The number of new cars produced in the UK fell by around a third during the first three months of 2022, according to new figures. The data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows output in the first quarter of 2022 was down by around 100,000 units compared with the same period in 2021.
That’s despite the fact the first few months of 2021 were severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, which prevented dealerships from opening their showrooms and stifled demand. Nevertheless, the first quarter of last year saw more than 306,000 new cars roll off UK production lines. At the same point in 2022, that figure stood at just over 207,000.
It’s a statistic that comes amid a global shortage of components, including semiconductors, that has seen manufacturers forced to prioritise more profitable models and caused long waiting times for customers. In March, output fell by 33.4 percent compared with the same month last year, as just under 77,000 new cars were built in the UK.
According to the SMMT, part of the reason for the slump is the closure of the Honda plant in Swindon, which shut down in July 2021 and previously built cars for global markets including the USA. Last month, the number of cars built for customers in the US was down 63.8 percent compared with March 2021, when the Honda factory was still running.
Naturally, that isn’t the only problem the SMMT has cited, with the ongoing war in Ukraine deemed another important factor. The organisation claims Russia’s invasion of the country has been “exacerbating parts supply challenges”, as well as contributing to an “increasingly challenging economic environment”, for car makers who face rising energy costs.
As a result, the SMMT has called on the government to provide “relief” on energy costs, as other energy-intensive industries have been. The organisation also wants access to low-cost, low-carbon energy comparable to that of European competitors.
“Two years after the start of the pandemic, automotive production is still suffering badly, with nearly 100,000 units lost in the first quarter,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. “Recovery has not yet begun and, with a backdrop of an increasingly difficult economic environment, including escalating energy costs, urgent action is needed to protect the competitiveness of UK manufacturing. We want the UK to be at the forefront of the transition to electrified vehicles, not just as a market but as a manufacturer so action is urgently needed if we are to safeguard jobs and livelihoods.”