UK car manufacturing fell -37.6% in March, according to figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
Just 78,767 vehicles left factory gates in the month, some 47,428 fewer than the previous year, as the coronavirus crisis caused UK car plants to close, resulting in more than 140 days-worth, in total, of lost production.
Output for the domestic market declined -36.8%, while exports fell -37.8% as the pandemic forced showrooms to close around the world. Demand was particularly weak in major export destinations, including the US and EU where many key markets were shut for the majority of the month, with exports down -39.3% and -37.7% respectively.
There were some encouraging signs, however, with shipments to China rising 2.3% as lockdown measures began to ease. However, overall output for the sector rounded off the first quarter down -13.8% with 319,252 vehicles leaving factory gates compared with 370,289 in the same period in 2019.
The latest independent analysis suggests that the crisis could result in a loss of some 257,000 units this year across all UK plants if factories stay closed to the middle of May. This amounts to an estimated cost to industry of some £8.2 billion, equivalent to around 20% of UK car makers’ combined annual turnover.
The outlook could be much worse, however, if subsequent demand is weak and the speed at which production lines are able to ramp up is constrained. The first step, therefore, is to get car retail premises open as soon as the situation allows.