Global supply shortages caused by the pandemic are to blame for hampering the UK’s car manufacturing industry post-pandemic recovery, according to industry leaders.

The Standard reports that car production increase dramatically in May, according to the lasted figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), but it still faces ‘ongoing COVID-related issues’, that trade body has warned.

In May this year, 54,962 new cars rolled off production lines, compared to only 5,314 in May 2020, when the pandemic caused the shutdown of manufacturing in the UK.

However, the increased output is still far below the levels before the pandemic, down by 52.6 per cent in May 2019, as a shortage of semiconductor chips that are used in the latest car models has brought some assembly lines to a grinding halt.

The car manufacturing industry is desperate to bounce back from the impact of the pandemic over the past year and a half, which saw outputs decline any almost third to less than 1 million vehicles in 2020, which is the biggest year-on-year decline since the financial crisis and the lowest total output since 1984.

So far in 2021, UK car manufacturing plants have produced 429,826 cars, which is up by 105,063 units in 2020, and the majority, 95.3 per cent, of the additional volume is built for export, but overall, the output is still down 22.9 per cent on the same period in 2019.

According to the SMMT, this is ‘reflective of the scale of the challenge facing the industry’, as it looks to find ways to boost recovery from the pandemic, while also struggling with global supply shortages, particularly semiconductor chips.

When compared with a five-year average, production was down a massive 58 per cent for May and more than a third (36.3 per cent) off the pace in the opening five months of the year.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said that Mays figures 'continue to look inflated' when compared to last years near-total standstill of production lines. 

The recovery of car production is still massively challenged here and abroad by global supply shortages, particularly semiconductors,” he explained. 

If the UK is to remain competitive, therefore, it must ensure it has a globally attractive policy framework for both vehicle production and the supply chain.”

The UK head of automotive at KPMG UK, Richard Peberdy, explained the reason behind the supply shortage issues being experienced by car manufacturers in the UK: “Global inflationary pressures affecting materials like copper, steel and oil are adding to the well-reported issues surrounding semiconductor supply, which continue to clip UK automotive output.

And while the Covid-19 picture is improving, new outbreaks have forced some port shutdowns in China, creating new blockages in the global supply chain.”

He added that inventories have fallen to very low levels, and that production remains stifled, while demand for new cars increases.

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