UK car manufacturing slumped last year to levels not seen since the start of the 1980s, industry data showed on Thursday, after Covid-19 shut factories and depressed demand.
According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, car manufacturing output fell 29.3% to 920,928 units, the lowest total since 1984.
The SMMT said manufacturing operations had been severely disrupted throughout the year, with social distancing and lockdown measures restricting factory output. Uncertainty around Brexit had also affected demand in the UK and key export destinations during the year.
Production for overseas buyers fell 29.1% to 749,038, while output for the UK was off 30.4% at 171,890.
More than 80% of all cars made in the UK were shipped overseas. The EU was the UK’s biggest export destination with a 53.5% share. Volumes to the EU fell 30.8% to 400,460 units, while shipments to the US, Japan and Australia were off 33.7%, 21.6% and 21.8% respectively.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “These figures, the worst in a generation, reflect the devastating impact of the pandemic on UK automotive production, with Covid lockdowns depressing demand, shuttering plants and threatening lives and livelihoods.
“The industry faces 2021 with more optimism, however, with a vaccine being rolled out and clarity on how we trade with Europe.”
The SMMT said the latest independent production outlook, from AutoAnalysis, is forecasting UK car production to recover in 2021, to 1m units. However, it added: “Much will depend on the extent of Covid measures here and abroad and the speed with which showrooms can reopen.”
Of UK’s three biggest car manufacturers, Jaguar Land Rover reported a 36.7% slide, Nissan saw a 29.1% fall and Mini a 20.8% decline.
Commercial vehicle manufacturing also declined sharply in 2020, the SMMT said, down 15.5% to just 66,116 vans, trucks, taxis, buses and coaches. Hawes said it had been “the worst year in a lifetime” for the sector.