Coronavirus: UK car production crashes by 37.6% in March as COVID-19 halts manufacturing

Lianna Brinded
Head of Yahoo Finance UK
A line of cars on a car assembly line at the Vauxhall car factory. Photo: Getty

UK car manufacturing cratered by 37.6% in March as the coronavirus pandemic to a halt in auto manufacturing.

According to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), just 78,767 vehicles exited factory gates last month, some 47,428 fewer than the previous year. The halt in manufacturing resulted in more than 140 days-worth of lost production.

“UK Automotive is fundamentally strong but, as these figures show, it is being tested like never before, with each week of shutdown costing the sector and economy billions,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, in an emailed statement.

“Government’s emergency measures are helping keep many companies afloat and thousands of people in jobs, but liquidity remains a major concern and will become even more stretched as the industry begins to restart.”

Chart: SMMT

The SMMT also pointed out that the coronavirus pandemic led to:

  • Output for the domestic market: -36.8% decline

  • Exports in total: -37.8%

  • Exports to US: -39.3%

  • Exports to EU: -37.7%

Meanwhile, the SMMT pointed to new independent research that reveals that it would at least cost the industry £8.2bn ($10bn) if factories closed until mid-May. This is equivalent to around 20% of UK car makers’ combined annual turnover.

“To get production lines rolling, we need a package of measures that supports the entire industry. We need coordination and collaboration with government, the workforce and wider stakeholders to unlock the sector in a safe and sustainable way,” said Hawes.

“This will include new workplace guidance, additional measures to ease cash-flow and help furloughed colleagues back to work, as well as demand-side measure to help encourage customers back into the market. This should be seen as long-term investment into the underlying competitiveness of an industry critical to the health of the economy and the livelihoods of thousands of households right across the UK.”