Jaguar Land Rover said its plants were back on two shifts after retail sales for the three month period to 30 September 2020 improved significantly versus the preceding quarter but continued to be impacted by COVID-19.

Almost all retailers worldwide are now open or partially open and the plants have resumed production with robust protocol and guidelines to ensure that effective social distancing, hygiene and health monitoring measures are in place and all sites are COVID-19 secure.

The vehicle manufacturing plants at Solihull (UK), Halewood (UK) and Nitra (Slovakia), as well as the Engine Manufacturing Centre (UK), have now increased to a two shift pattern to meet increasing demand.

Retail sales for the quarter ending 30 September 2020 were 113,569 vehicles, up over 50% from sales of 74,067 in the prior quarter, while down 11.9% from pre-COVID levels a year ago. China sales were particularly encouraging, up 14.6% on the prior quarter and 3.7% year on year. September also saw sales up 28.5% year on year in China.

Retail sales for other regions also significantly improved from the prior quarter, including the UK (+231.6%), Europe (+78.8%), North America (+21.3%) and Overseas (+35.1%).  However, sales in these regions have not yet recovered to pre-COVID levels a year ago: UK (-2.9%), North America (-15.8%), Europe (-19.8%) and Overseas markets (-30.3%).

The company ended September with about 3bn of cash and short-term deposits, up GBP0.3bn, primarily reflecting positive free cash flow as expected in the quarter. Total liquidity was about GBP5bn, including the company's GBP1.9bn revolving credit facility, which remains undrawn.

"COVID-19 and second lockdowns continue to impact the global auto industry but we are pleased to see sales recovering across our markets. In China, the first region to come out of lockdown, our performance has been particularly encouraging. But we are also seeing strong improvement versus the preceding quarter in other key markets, with sales up more than 50% worldwide," said chief commercial officer Felix Brautigam.

"The recovery has been demand-led and we are delighted that we have been able to reduce stocks to achieve ideal levels in most markets, despite the ongoing pandemic, to support a healthier and more profitable business."