The British car industry produced just 197 cars last month, down from 70,971 in April 2019, as the coronavirus lockdown caused every major UK factory to close.
The output was the lowest level since the second world war, according to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Only a handful of premium, luxury and sports cars were manufactured, with some smaller factories able to put minor finishing touches on the vehicles.
It was the second consecutive month of historically low production. In March 78,767 cars rolled off the production lines, down more than 47,000 on a year earlier.
Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan and BMW were among the major manufacturers that shut plants in March after the UK lockdown was imposed, faced with the prospect of parts shortages and difficulties protecting workers.
The first large plants reopened at the start of May, although others, including Nissan’s Sunderland factory, the largest in the UK, will not open until next week.
As well as the difficulties of sourcing parts, carmakers have also had to plan for significantly lower demand.
Car dealers are among the non-essential retail businesses that can reopen on Monday with new physical distancing rules in place, with the industry hopeful demand for new vehicles will return relatively quickly, as happened after China lifted its lockdown.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “With the UK’s car plants mothballed in April, these figures aren’t surprising but they do highlight the tremendous challenge the industry faces, with revenues effectively slashed to zero last month.
“Manufacturers are starting to emerge from prolonged shutdown into a very uncertain world and ramping up production will be a gradual process, so we need government to work with us to accelerate this fundamentally strong sector’s recovery, stimulate investment and safeguard jobs.”