UK car making slumped last year to the lowest since 1984, hit by Covid-19 interruptions and a collapse in demand for most of the year.
The car makers’ body, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders chief Mike Hawes said it was a “dreadful year” but added that a comprehensive vaccination programme might restore buying and production.
Output was 920,928 vehicles, a 29.3% fall on 2019 and with Honda closing its Swindon plant this year, the recovery is likely to be short-lived.
Nearly 8 out of 10 cars built in the UK are exported and overseas sales were hit by the pandemic as well as UK business contracting according to 2020 sales figures from the SMMT at the beginning of January. It also followed a decline in UK engine plants’ production as engineering struggled with lockdowns and restraints imposed by PPE measures.
This week, Nissan axed 160 office-based jobs in Britain after reduced sales amid plans to turn around its performance but it committed to its northeast England factory with more traction batteries built locally to avoid tariffs on electric cars after the UK’s trade deal with the EU, and said the Brexit agreement is an “opportunity” for Sunderland plant.
Nissan opened Britain’s biggest car plant in 1986 and made nearly 350,000 vehicles there in 2019 but it has since pulled back on plans and production, axing some models it made for global sales and also moved production lines to other parts of the world.