UK car manufacturing output fell 95.4% year-on-year in May, with just 5,321 vehicles rolling off production lines.

The figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show a slight improvement over April, which saw production drop by 99.7% year-on-year and only 197 cars made.

Two-thirds of UK factories are up and running, albeit at a limited capacity, but significantly, Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port and Jaguar Land Rover’s Castle Bromwich facilities both remain closed. 

However, those which are open are limited by social distancing requirements and reduced demand, given key global markets are only just now re-opening and the UK is still in relative lockdown.

Bentley’s Crewe plant was one of the first to re-open in early May, but remains at half its capacity. Talking earlier this week, Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark said: “We closed down early and we restarted early – the safety of our colleagues has been of paramount importance. Within three to four weeks we should be up to 100% production capacity, but today ,we’re just 50% of normal capacity.”

In May, 4260 cars were exported, and with English showrooms not reopening until 1 June, only 1054 models were built for domestic buyers.

Year-to-date, UK factories have made 324,763 cars, down 41.7% on 2019. That translates to 230,000 fewer vehicles made and revises the SMMT’s production outlook for 2020 as a whole to fewer than one million cars.

Earlier this week, the SMMT warned that up to one in six UK car industry jobs could be under threat and called for Government support to kickstart the sector.

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Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, “May’s figures are yet more evidence of why the UK industry, like its global rivals, needs dedicated support to drive a successful restart. Government assistance so far has been vital in keeping many businesses afloat, but the job isn’t done. Measures to boost cashflow, including additional and tailored finance schemes, tax relief and business rates deferral would deliver immediate results when liquidity is most acute. 

“We have to retain the highly skilled jobs the sector provides but also ensure the business conditions are competitive so we can unlock the investment that will drive long-term recovery – a green recovery – which is inextricably linked the sector’s success.”

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