UK car exports pick up as EU remains number one market post-Brexit

·2-min read
The UK made 68,306 cars in April. Photo: Getty Images
The UK made 68,306 cars in April. Photo: Getty Images

UK car production remained below pre-pandemic levels, but exports were a bright spot.

In the first four months of 2021, car production for the UK market declined 3.1% while car exports have risen 22.5%, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders' (SMMT) latest figures show.

About 83% of cars made in the UK were shipped overseas. So far this year the European Union "remains by far the most important destination for British cars," taking 52.1% of all exports, followed by the US (17.4%) and China (7.4%).

The UK made 68,306 cars in April, a big jump from just 197 cars made in April 2020, when COVID restrictions halted manufacturing. 

However, the performance was 3.8% below April 2019's output, before the pandemic hit.

Read more: 90% of UK car manufacturers struggling with new Brexit rules

In the first quarter of 2021, UK factories have turned out 374,864 cars, with April’s performance offsetting earlier declines to drive a 17.3% overall increase. However, when compared with the first four months of 2019, production was down 15%.

When compared with a five-year average, production was down 42.9% for the month and 31.1% for the period January to April, "reflecting the scale of the challenge facing the industry as it seeks to recover from the pandemic," the report said.

"The situation for UK car manufacturers remains challenging, particularly with the worldwide shortage of semiconductors affecting output," said Mike Hawes, SMMT CEO.

"While it’s good news that the UK is on track with its COVID roadmap back to normality, we still need strong domestic demand and given we’re export-led, confident overseas markets to drive a recovery, both for the automotive sector and for the wider economy."

April figures also showed an increasing shift towards electrified vehicles: 22.8% of all UK car manufacturing was for battery electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid cars.

Read more: Nissan looks to set up a gigafactory in UK

In the first four months, alternatively fuelled model production was up 33.1% on the same period in 2019, which the report said "demonstrated the UK industry’s commitment to meeting demand for these ultra-low and zero emission vehicles."

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