UK’s July auto output falls 38% y-o-y amid semiconductor ‘pingdemic’

The UK’s auto manufacturing output fell 37.6% year on year in July amid the ongoing global shortage of semiconductor chips, the COVID-19 “pingdemic” creating staffing issues and summer shutdowns, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said on Aug. 26.

The sector manufactured 53,438 units in July, the lowest level for the month since 1956.

According to the SMMT data, auto production for the UK domestic market fell 38.7% on the year to 8,233 units in July, while manufacturing for export dropped 37.4% over the same period to 45,205 units.

The percentage of vehicles manufactured for export remained relatively static at 84.6%, compared with 84.3% in 2020, with SMMT saying that overseas buyers had “continued to be attracted to the wide range of high-quality cars made in Britain, including the latest alternatively-fueled models.”

Despite the low overall volume, the positive aspect was the higher percentage of electric vehicles manufactured in July.

Of the total vehicles produced in the month, 26% were either battery electric (BEV), plug in hybrid (PHEV) or hybrid electric (HEV), the highest share on record.

In the first seven months of the year, the UK manufactured 552,361 units, up 18.3% from the same period in 2020, with the latter being affected by the initial COVID-19 lockdowns.

However, SMMT said the seven-month volume was 28.7% lower than the same period on 2019.

It added that UK auto manufacturers had produced 126,757 EVs since the start of 2021.

Semiconductor shortage

SMMT CEO Mike Hawes said the July figures “lay bare the extremely tough conditions UK car manufacturers continue to face.”

He noted that, while the “pingdemic” impact was expected to decrease as self-isolation rules changed, the global shortage of semiconductors showed little signs of abating.

Ducker Research and Consulting managing director Abey Abraham told the International Magnesium Association’s 2021 Annual World Magnesium Virtual Conference on Aug. 24 that the semiconductor shortage was forecast to impact global automotive production through 2023, with the forecast for 2021 likely to be reduced further despite pent up demand.

“The UK automotive industry is doing what it can to keep production lines going, a testament to the adaptability of its workforce and manufacturing processes. The government can help by continuing the supportive COVID-19 measures currently in place and boosting our competitiveness with a reduction in energy levies and business rates for a sector that is strategically important in delivering net-zero [emissions],” Hawes said.

— Jacqueline Holman