The UK’s car industry is in bad shape. New figures reveal that vehicle production in the country has dropped to the lowest level since 1956.
A total of 775,014 cars were built in the UK during 2022, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). That number was down 10 percent from the 859,575 vehicles produced in 2021, which was already a shockingly bad year for the industry.
The 2022 figure is also down over 40 percent versus the total for 2019, the last year unaffected by COVID and semiconductor shortages. Britain’s car plants made 1.3 million cars that year, and the industry has been struggling to recover since, though it hopes to hit the 1 million-unit mark again in 2025.
Both COVID and, to a greater extent, the chip crisis were certainly limiting factors during 2022, but the SMMT also lays blame with Stellantis’s decision to axe Vauxhall Astra production at Ellesmere Port in April 2022 in favor of producing electric vans at the same site. That move came less than a year after Honda chose to close its factory in Swindon, which also contributed massively to last year’s slump.
Related: Britishvolt’s Collapse Spells Serious Trouble For UK’s Car Industry
The one bright spot was the news that the UK made more electrified vehicles than ever during 2022, which accounted for almost one third of all cars. A total of 234,066 fully electric, hybrid and PHEV vehicles were built in the county last year, up 4.5 percent on 2021’s tally.
Sky News reports that the re-opening of the Chinese economy this year should lead to increased availability of chips that could result in a 15 percent increase in UK vehicle production, but some industry experts are worried that investment might be re-routed to the U.S.
The Inflation Reduction Act grants EV tax credits to buyers of cars that are built in the U.S. and use locally sourced parts in their construction, though other regions, including Europe, have objected.