New car production remains well below pre-pandemic levels despite a return to growth in October, the SMMT has said.
Newly released figures from the trade body reveal that a total of 69,524 cars were built in October, representing a year-on-year rise of 7.4 percent.
The figure remains a whopping 48.4 per cent down on October 2019’s 134,669 cars but does at least signal a bounce back from a tough September.
The ninth month of the year saw production figures fall for the first time since Aprillargely as a result of supply chain issues.
Last month’s output was largely driven by exports of the latest volume, luxury and specialist models, with more than eight in 10 cars made heading overseas, equivalent to 56,469 units.
Meanwhile, 13,055 cars were turned out for the domestic market.
Export growth was led by rising shipments to the US, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Turkey although the majority of cars (54.9 per cent) heading overseas went to the European Union, said the SMMT.
UK production of battery electric (BEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and hybrid (HEV) vehicles rose again, with combined volumes up 20.3 per cent to 24,115 units.
In the year to date, UK car factories have produced a record 61,339 BEVs, up 16.2 per cent on the same period in 2021.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: ‘A return to growth for UK car production in October is welcome – although output is still down significantly on pre-Covid levels amid turbulent component supply.
‘Getting the sector back on track in 2023 is a priority, given the jobs, exports and economic contribution the automotive industry sustains.
‘UK car makers are doing all they can to ramp up production of the latest electrified vehicles, and help deliver net zero, but more favorable conditions for investment are needed and needed urgently – especially in affordable and sustainable energy and availability of talent – as part of a supportive framework for automotive manufacturing.’
The automotive industry faces a difficult future
Industry leaders have been reacting to the latest figures, with experts predicting a ‘difficult future’ due to the seemingly endless nature of current supply chain constraints.
Steve Huntingford, editor of What Car?, says that spiraling costs are also having a huge impact on production.
He told Car Dealer: ‘Despite output growing, the UK automotive industry remains below pre-pandemic levels and faces a difficult future. While the six-month business Energy Bill Relief Scheme provides some short-run relief for manufacturers, the industry is still facing rising costs of manufacturing at a time when it is meant to be investing heavily into electrification and battery assembly.
We’ve already seen rising costs result in higher prices for new cars, as well as potentially delaying or reducing investment in electric vehicle manufacturing.
‘If the UK is to remain a leader in electric vehicle manufacturing, the government should look to support the sector more through tax credits, better business rates and incentives to invest in electric vehicle manufacturing.
‘The Automotive Transformation Fund is a step in the right direction, but more can and should be done for a sector that employs more than 780,000 people across the country and turns over £67bn annually.’
Also concerned about the future is Carwow’s consumer editor, Hugo Griffiths.
He said: ‘October’s manufacturing figures are in one sense positive as they show a marked upswing on the previous year but, with year-to-date numbers down by over 10 per cent, they also demonstrate how vulnerable the industry is to supply constraints, and how far we still have to go before we get anywhere near pre-pandemic production levels.
‘While the vast majority of cars made in the UK are built for export, national manufacturing trends echo those of the global market.
‘Given this, UK consumers can still expect lengthy waits for some models, something that can be circumvented by taking a flexible approach when new-car shopping.
‘Despite production difficulties many models are in excellent supply, with Carwow’s dealers having around 4,000 unregistered new cars ready and waiting for new owners.’