December output was down 2.3% to 71,403, with some firms affected by border closures and thus component supply issues. This rounded off a dreadful year, the worst since 1984 for UK car makers, with the pandemic chiefly responsible for the decline.
Despite the gloom, the UK continued to rollout battery-electric (BEV), plug-hybrid (PHEV) and hybrid vehicles (HEV) to buyers at home and around the world. Combined production of these models rose to 18.8% of all cars made in Britain, up from 14.8% a year before, with BEVs increasing to a 4.5% share, up from 3.4%.
All told, the UK turned out 172,857 alternatively fuelled vehicles, with 79.6% of these exported which the SMMT claims is evidence of the country’s existing capability in building the vehicles essential to a net-zero future.
Production for overseas buyers fell 29.1% in the year, to 749,038 units, while output for the UK also fell in double-digits, down 30.4% to 171,890. Even amid the global pandemic, exports continued to drive UK car manufacturing, however, with more than eight in 10 of all cars made shipped overseas.
Reinforcing the importance of avoiding ‘no deal’ tariffs with Europe, the EU remained the UK’s biggest export destination, taking a 53.5% share, despite volumes falling 30.8% to 400,460 units.
Elsewhere, trade with most of the UK’s other key export partners declined in line with the tough market conditions resulting from the pandemic. Shipments to the US, Japan and Australia all fell, down 33.7%, 21.6% and 21.8% respectively.
However, exports to China ended the year up 2.3%, and those to South Korea and Taiwan also rose 3.6% and 16.7% respectively as these nations travelled on different trajectories in dealing with Covid.
Says Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive:
“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, which remains by far our biggest market.”