New figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reveal that last month was the second worst June for UK car production since 1953, behind only 2020, when the pandemic was at its peak.
Some 69,079 new cars rolled off UK production lines, which was a 22.1% increase over the 56,594 produced in June 2020 but nearly 37% down on the tally from June 2019 - before the pandemic hit.
The SMMT blames the global semiconductor shortage, itself largely a product of the pandemic, for the shortfall. New trading rules with the European Union are also listed as a factor, as well as staff shortages resulting from the 'pingdemic', whereby people are required to self-isolate if they receive a notification that they have come into contact with someone with Covid-19.
June's results bring to an end a "turbulent" six months for UK manufacturing, the SMMT notes, with the 498,293 units produced so far this year representing a 38.4% drop on the five-year, first-half average. A shortfall of 311,160 cars is equivalent to a loss of more than £8.5 billion, the SMMT says.
By the end of 2021, the UK could lose up to 100,000 new cars as a result of the semiconductor shortage and other factors hampering the sector's recovery from the pandemic.
Some 83.4% of UK-built cars were destined for overseas markets in June, of which 51.7% went to the EU, 18.8% to the US and 7.8% to China.
Meanwhile, 22.6% of all cars built were "alternatively fuelled" (ie battery-electric, hybrid or fuel cell), which is a "steady" percentage compared with previous years, but the SMMT highlights the approach of the 2030 ban on the sale of new combustion-engined cars and repeats its call for "significant investment into vehicle manufacturing, battery production and supply chain transformation" in line with that transition.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "While the UK automotive industry continues to suffer the effects of the global pandemic, with first half year production down significantly and a tough few months looming, the sector has the capability to recover.
'The latest investments into new models and battery production show a bright future is within reach, yet the industry still faces headwinds, most notably from global semiconductor shortages and staff absenteeism as a result of staff being ‘pinged'."
Hawes called for the government to bring forward the introduction of new measures that will allow fully vaccinated adults to avoid isolating after a contact notification, currently scheduled for introduction on 16 August. He also advocated a 'test to release' scheme, which would allow non-vaccinated workers to skip isolation in favour of regular testing after a contact.