UK car factory output was down by almost a fifth in the first half of this year, according to new figures from a leading industry body. Data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows 19.2 percent fewer cars were built in the UK during the first six months of 2022 than during the same period last year.

From the start of January to the end of June, British factories built just over 403,000 new cars – down from almost 499,000 produced during the same period in 2021. It’s the worst first-half performance for the British car industry since coronavirus lockdown-affected 2020 and it’s worse than 2009, when the financial crisis was at its height.

The industry has blamed the latest decline on the global chip shortage and supply chain issues caused by the war in Ukraine, although the SMMT says there are signs shortages are easing. In June alone, production rose by 5.6 percent with almost 73,000 new cars rolling out of UK factory gates. In the same month last year, that figure stood at just over 69,000.

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Although it’s the best June performance for UK automotive manufacturing since the coronavirus pandemic began, the SMMT says output was still down by a third compared with pre-pandemic 2019. As a result, the SMMT has downgraded its prediction for automotive output this year, expecting around 866,000 cars to be built on these shores throughout 2022.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said the past few months would give the industry “grounds for optimism”, and claimed the supply issues would “recede” over the coming “year or two”. But he also said the sector would need economic support to help it thrive when shortages end.

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“Car manufacturers have been suffering from a ‘long Covid’ for much of 2022, as global component shortages undermine production and put supply chains under extreme pressure,” he said. “Key model changeovers and the closure of a major plant last year have also impacted output, but there are grounds for optimism with rising output over the last two months.

“As these issues recede over the next year or two, investment in new technologies and processes will be essential but this will depend on our underlying competitiveness. Sky-high energy costs, non-competitive business rates and skills shortages must all be addressed if we are to build on our inherent strengths and seize the opportunities presented by the dash for decarbonised mobility.”