There was a 99.7 per cent year on year drop in car manufacturing in Britain in the month of April because of the novel coronavirus related shutdowns.
According to the industry body, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the production numbers in April is the lowest car output for the country since the Second World War.
The auto companies manufactured just 197 premium and luxury sports vehicles in the country in April and 45 of those cars were shipped to customers in eth United Kingdom. Instead of cars, personal protective equipment for health workers were made by some factories with a total 711,495 items being manufactured by the auto factories in April.
“With the UK’s car plants mothballed in April, these figures aren’t surprising but they do highlight the tremendous challenge the industry faces, with revenues effectively slashed to zero last month,” said SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes.
It is expected that the British car industry has lost up to £12.5bn in revenues because of the drop in production of about 400,000 cars that would normally have been made if the pandemic related curbs were not imposed.
830 new car engines made at UK plants in April of which 781 were exported. The rate of production was down by 99.5 per cent year on year.
A “gradual process” has to be followed for ramping up the industry again, Hawes said. It is expected that work would start in about half of the UK’s engine and car makers from this week.
But with strict social distancing measures in place, production timescales will be staggered. Factory workers should be provided with PPE, the SMMT has suggested to car manufacturers.
In order to limit the number of people who interact on a daily basis, it is also expected that car manufacturers will work with fixed teams and with partnering.
Prior to the near complete halt of production, most of the few cars that were made in the UK were luxury cars from brands like McLaren, Bentley and Rolls Royce. About a month is required for the completion of the assembly of a high end luxury sports car. The finishing touches were still being applied to 197 luxury cars that were sent to customers even though the production of vehicle lines had stopped.
The auto industry chose to turn to manufacturing PPE for healthcare workers as the pandemic had forced stoppage of normal factory work. Car factories were used to piece together face shields, visors and medical gowns. Medical equipment such as ventilators were also manufactured by a number of car companies including Rolls Royce and McLaren.
Workers’ unions say a severely weakened industry needs urgent government help even though the car industry is pressing ahead with plans to resume production slowly.
“We urgently need a sector plan to support the UK’s world class auto industry through this crisis, with investment to defend jobs and support for a transition to electrification. The French and German governments have wasted no time in getting behind their manufacturing workers,” said Steve Turner, Unite assistant general secretary.
(Adapted from BBC.com)