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3 minute read - 1st September 2023

Production growth continues for both car and commercial vehicle manufacturing

British car and commercial vehicle manufacturing continued in a positive direction last month with car production marking the sixth consecutive month of growth and commercial vehicle production achieving an eight-year high for July production figures.

Car production surged in July, rising 31.6%, according to the latest figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). A total of 76,451 units rolled off factory lines as UK car makers continued their recovery from recent difficulties, notably global chip shortages, to deliver the latest models to buyers at home and overseas. Despite this growth, however, output remained -29.4% lower than pre-pandemic July 2019.

Cars destined for the UK rose 13.7% to 13,187 units in the month while exports increased more than a third (36.1%) to 63,264 units, representing by far the bulk of all production in July. More than eight-in-ten (82.8%) cars made were shipped overseas, with the top destination markets being the EU, US, China, Japan and Australia.

Production of hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles continued apace, with combined volumes rising 73.9% to 30,180 units and representing almost two in every five (39.5%) cars made in July. Since January, UK car makers have now turned out more than 200,000 of these vehicles, almost double the amount produced in the same period last year, and a total of 526,619 cars overall, an increase of 14.2% year-on-year.

British car production rose for the sixth consecutive month in July, whilst commercial vehicle output grew 9.3%, according to the latest SMMT figures / Picture: KUKA

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Commercial vehicle manufacturing output grew 9.3% in July to reach 8,853 units, according to SMMT figures. The result means the industry enjoyed its busiest July since 2015, while year-to-date production is up by 68.0% on pre-pandemic levels.

Growth was driven primarily by easing supply chain challenges and an ongoing rise in export demand, which swelled by 18.9% to reach 5,392 units. The EU accounted for the vast majority of the UK’s van, truck and bus exports, receiving 94.2% of all July output sent overseas. Conversely, production for the domestic market decreased slightly, by -3.0% to 3,461 units following particularly strong growth in 2022.

Following four consecutive months of growth, commercial vehicle production year-to-date is now up by 15.0% on the same period in 2022, with 67,528 units produced so far, continuing the sector’s best year for output since 2011. Expansion has been driven primarily by exports, which are up 25.7% year-to-date to reach 43,195 units, while domestic output has held stable at 24,333 units.

Year-to-date commercial vehicle production output is up by 68.0% on pre-pandemic levels / Picture: Stellantis

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Six months of growth shows that British car production is recovering and, with electrified models increasingly driving volumes, the future is more positive. Recent investment announcements have undoubtedly bolstered the sector but global competition remains tough. If we are to attract further investment and produce the next generation of zero emission models and technologies, we need a coherent strategy that builds on our strengths and supports all aspects of advanced automotive manufacturing.

“This year is turning into a real success story for UK commercial vehicle production with soaring exports and a steady, stable domestic market. However, with major markets making the transition towards zero emission vehicles, production must be prepared for long-term change. To secure ongoing success, Britain urgently needs a green automotive transformation strategy that shores up skills, delivers cheaper energy and attracts investment.”

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