New car production increased year-on-year in the UK for the first time in almost a year during May, according to new figures. Data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows car production was up by around 13 percent last month – the first increase since June 2021.

Over the past year, the car industry has faced numerous challenges, including the global microchip shortage and the supply issues caused by the war in Ukraine. As a result, output has fallen dramatically compared with 2021. Even though that year was still affected by the coronavirus lockdown, UK car production was down by 100,000 units in the first quarter of 2022 alone.

Finally, there’s some good news in the shape of May’s 13.3 percent uplift in passenger car production compared with May 2021. That comes despite the closure of Honda’s Swindon factory last summer, and represents an end to 10 months of consistent decline.

Honda Civic production Swindon UK

In total, more than 62,000 new cars rolled off British production lines in May, with more than 11,000 of those destined for customers in the UK. The remaining 51,000 headed to customers overseas.

Although those figures look strong in comparison with May 2021, they remain far behind pre-pandemic levels. Compared with May 2019, May 2022’s output was down by more than 46 percent.

And May’s crumb of comfort was not enough to bring the year’s output back in line with 2021. A total of 330,185 cars were built in the UK during the first five months of this year – down 23.2 percent compared with the 430,000 built during the same part of 2021.

Bentley resumes production in Crewe

Nevertheless, the SMMT’s chief executive, Mike Hawes, welcomed the news, claiming any recovery for the sector would have to be “gradual” amid the ongoing issues in the supply chain and the rising cost of energy.

“May’s return to growth for UK car output is hugely welcome after 10 months of decline, indicating the sector’s fundamental resilience,” he said. “Any recovery, however, will be gradual as supply chain deliveries remain erratic, business costs volatile and geopolitical instability still very real. With the industry racing to decarbonise, we need to safeguard manufacturing competitiveness, drive investment and develop the skill base. Government and industry have a role to play in this transformation and collaboration will be essential if the UK is to remain at the forefront of automotive innovation.”