New figures reveal that UK car production is at its lowest level since the 1950s.

There were fewer new cars manufactured in the UK in 2022 than any year since 1956, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). 775,014 cars were produced in the country last year, the fewest number for 66 years, when just over 700,000 vehicles came off production lines struggling in the post-war period.

We have been reporting on the slowdown for a while now, but these figures are a stark reminder of just how tough the motor industry is finding the current economic climate. Strong foreign competition, the cost of living crisis, semiconductor shortages and a fall in exports are among the factors to blame. Covid lockdowns in China halting part production at manufacturing plants have also not helped.

The figures were lower even than in 2020, when the country was in lockdown for several months and car showrooms were closed.

It was not all bad news, however. More electric vehicles were produced than ever before (234,066), and accounted for 30% of all cars manufactured.

“These figures reflect just how tough 2022 was for UK car manufacturing,” said Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT.  

“We still made more electric vehicles than ever before – high value, cutting edge models, in demand around the world. The potential for this sector to deliver economic growth by building more of these zero emission models is self-evident, however, we must make the right decisions now.”

“This means shaping a strategy to drive rapid upscaling of UK battery production and the shift to electric vehicles based on the UK automotive sector’s fundamental strengths – a highly skilled and flexible workforce, engineering excellence, technical innovation and productivity levels that are amongst the best in Europe,” said Hawes.

The SMMT says that the motor industry is looking for a dedicated framework to position the UK as one of the world’s most competitive locations for advanced automotive manufacturing, with the production of EVs at the heart of this strategy. This year production is set to increase, with output predicted to rise by 15%.