The UK's commercial vehicle manufacturing sector experienced a significant downturn for the third month in a row this May, according to the latest data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Production plummeted by 59.3 per cent, with just 4,400 vans, trucks, taxis, buses, and coaches leaving factory gates. This drop follows an exceptionally strong May last year, which saw the highest production levels since 2008 as manufacturers raced to meet post-pandemic demand.

The primary culprit behind the decrease is ongoing supply chain disruptions, which have temporarily hindered production capabilities. Despite the challenges, demand for UK-built commercial vehicles remains robust, particularly in international markets. In May, exports accounted for nearly 69 per cent of total production, although volumes fell by 61.9 per cent to 3,027 units. The European Union continued to be the largest market for these exports, representing a hefty 95.9 per cent of the total.

“Commercial vehicle production has gone from strength to strength over the last year, driven by increasing demand at home and abroad. The recent downturn is obviously disappointing, but is temporary and, as supply chain disruptions are resolved, output should be back on track,” Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, commented. 

Domestically, the scenario wasn't much brighter. Production for the UK market dropped by 52.2 per cent, with only 1,373 units manufactured. This decline contributes to an overall year-to-date production drop of 3.2 per cent, equating to a loss of 1,492 units. However, there is a silver lining in the export sector, where year-to-date figures show a 5.9 per cent increase in demand, totalling 31,688 units.

April's figures also reflected a downward trend, with a 19.9 per cent decrease in production compared to the previous month. A total of 8,413 units were produced, marking the second consecutive month of decline. Compared to April 2019, CV production has surged by an impressive 289.1 per cent, driven by substantial investments and a notably low output during that period due to model changeovers at key production plants.

While the immediate outlook appears challenging, industry experts remain hopeful that the domestic LCV production will rebound. As the year progresses, manufacturers are poised to stabilize output, potentially restoring the sector's former growth trajectory.