Data released by the SMMT shows that 54,962 cars were produced in the UK in May, well up on Covid-wrought May 2020 (5,314 cars produced), but still down 52.6% on 2019’s level.

So far this year UK factories have turned out 429,826 cars, up some 105,063 units on last year, the majority (95.3%) of the additional volume built for export, but overall output remains down 22.9% on the same five-month period in 2019.

The latest output numbers reflect the scale of the challenge facing the industry as it seeks to recover from the pandemic while grappling with global supply shortages, notably of semiconductors. When compared with a five-year average, production was down 58.0% for the month and 36.3% for the period January – May.

As overall production tries to regain momentum, manufacturing of electrified vehicles is picking up speed. In the month of May, 19.2% of all UK car output was battery electric and hybrid cars, while in the year-to-date 1 in 5 vehicles manufactured in the UK were alternatively-fuelled models. However, this share drops to 1 in 16 for pure battery electric vehicles and 1 in 6 for hybrid cars, further highlighting the scale of transformation ahead and the importance of creating the right conditions to ensure sector competitiveness in the UK, the SMMT said.

Meanwhile UK car production continues to be export-led, with 83.6% of all cars built so far in 2021 shipped overseas. The European Union remains by far the most important destination for British cars, taking 56.0% of all exports, followed by the US (18.3%) and China (7.3%).

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “May’s figures continue to look inflated when compared to last year’s near total standstill of production lines. The recovery of car production is, however, still massively challenged here and abroad by global supply shortages, particularly semiconductors. If the UK is to remain competitive, therefore, it must ensure it has a globally attractive policy framework for both vehicle production and the supply chain. Accelerating zero emission car production is part of this package, so while 1 in 5 models made here this year is alternatively fuelled, we need to drive investment in R&D, charging infrastructure and the market to ensure we can deliver the net zero future society demands.”