UK produces lowest number of cars since 1956 amid chip and virus crisis

Chip shortage drives UK car production to a minimum after 1956

The trade group expects a rebound to more than 1 million units this year as the components bottleneck eases and automakers from Stellantis NV to Nissan Motor Co. start retooling their U.K. factories to make them fit for electrification.

Automakers had their most horrendously awful year in the U.K. starting around 1956 after the worldwide semiconductor shortage, pandemic-related staffing issues and the closing of a key Honda Motor Co. factory hammered yield. Production fell some 7% to under 860,000 cars in 2021, the least in over sixty years and about a third underneath pre-pandemic levels, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said Thursday. All things considered, the more prompt viewpoint looks less rosy. Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess last week cautioned that the chip bottleneck will keep on delaying the German automaker’s capacity to meet demand.

“Despite this miserable year, there is optimism,” Mike Hawes, SMMT’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. “Investments have been unleashed, most of which will help transform the sector to its zero-emission future.”

Bentley Motors Ltd. this week announced plans to spend 2.5 billion pounds ($3.4 billion) over the coming decade to electrify its lineup and modernize its factory in Crewe, England. Both Nissan Motor Co. and Stellantis NV last year said they’ll turn their plants in Sunderland and Ellesmere Port into EV-making hubs. Only Honda in mid-2021 went ahead with a long-planned closing of its site in Swindon that employed more than 3,000 people.

Renault SA CEO Luca de Meo said this month that while he doesn’t expect 2022 to be worse than last year, tight semiconductor supplies will continue to stymie production, particularly in the first half.

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