EVs soften car crash

Nissan Leaf, production at Sunderland

BRITISH car production slumped to the lowest level since the 1950s in 2022 with 775,914 vehicles coming off production lines.

The sharp decline was caused by a crippling shortage of semiconductors, factory closures and supply chain issues caused by Covid lockdowns in China.

However, electrified vehicles continued to boom and accounted for almost a third of cars which, according to industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, was worth £10 billion in exports alone.

In 2022, UK factories turned out a record 234,066 battery electric (BEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and hybrid (HEV) electric vehicles, with combined volumes up 4.5 per cent year-on-year to represent 30.2 per cent of all car production.

Total BEV production rose 4.8 per cent, with hybrid volumes up 4.3 per cent, and boosting output of these vehicles will be critical in the attainment of net zero, for both the UK and major overseas markets.

Overall, the annual total was 84,561 units down on 2021 and 40.5 per cent off the 1,303,135 cars made pre-pandemic in 2019, equivalent to a loss of more than half a million cars.

The figures come as fresh SMMT analysis confirms the increasingly important role of electrified vehicle production to the UK economy, especially the value of exports.

Since 2017, the value of BEV, PHEV and HEV exports has risen seven-fold, from £1.3 billion to more than £10 billion.

As a result, electrified vehicles represent 44.7 per cent of the value of all UK car exports, up from a mere 4.1 per cent.

BEVs, in particular, are critical to the future prosperity of the UK, with their export value up more than 1,500 per cent, from £81.7 million to £1.3 billion, said the SMMT.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said,"These figures reflect just how tough 2022 was for UK car manufacturing, though we still made more electric vehicles than ever before-high value, cutting edge models, in demand around the world.

"The potential for this sector to deliver economic growth by building more of these zero emission models is self-evident, however, we must make the right decisions now.

"This means shaping a strategy to drive rapid upscaling of UK battery production and the shift to electric vehicles based on the UK automotive sector's fundamental strengths-a highly skilled and flexible workforce, engineering excellence, technical innovation and productivity levels that are amongst the best in Europe."

The UK's strength in specialist, luxury and performance car makers was also further underlined, with output climbing 6.6 per cent to 32,575 units, worth an estimated total of £3.7 billion at factory gate prices, driven by a number of new launches and models in high demand from buyers around the world.

These manufacturers play an important role in the development of advanced automotive technologies such as light-weighting and electrification which, in turn, can help advance wider industry.

Total annual output for the UK market in 2022 grew 9.4 per cent, but this was not enough to offset a 14.0 per cent drop in exports. Nearly eight in 10 cars (606,838 units) were built for overseas markets, compared with168,176 for British buyers, emphasising the importance of free and fair global trade.

Looking forward, the SMMT said the latest independent outlook expects that, with easing semiconductor shortages, UK car and light van output should rise by 15 per cent to 984,000 units in 2023 (842,200 cars and 141,800 light vans), an uplift worth some £3.9 billion.

By 2025, production volumes are projected to surpass a million vehicles.

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