Automotive News – Late June 2021

May engine production more than doubles but export growth sluggish

  • UK factories made 116,639 engines in May, more than double May 2020’s output.
  • May 2021 output down -47.6% on five-year average for the month.
  • Year-to-date output rises 18.8% with increased production for the domestic market.

UK commercial vehicle (CV) production increased to 6,243 units in May, according to the latest figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). For the second consecutive month CV output saw a significant increase on the same period in 2020, when just 820 units left production lines as plants either operated at a reduced capacity or were shut entirely. May’s output also represents a 2.2% increase on the five-year average, although this must be viewed in the context of important model changes in 2019.

In a continuation of the recent trend, UK car production rose dramatically in May, according to the latest figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) but still faces ongoing Covid-related issues. Some 54,962 cars rolled off production lines compared to just 5,314 a year ago, when coronavirus halted manufacturing. Performance, however, is still far below pre-pandemic levels, down -52.6% on the same month in 2019.3

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. This is reflective of 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.4 When compared with a five-year average, production was down -58.0% for the month and -36.3% for the period January – May.

Jaguar Land Rover has paused production of its Defender 4X4 because of the worldwide shortage of semiconductor microchips.

Work has been stopped at its factory in Nitra, Slovakia, where it is scheduled to make 150,000 of the off-roaders a year.

Demand for the new Defender has been so high since it went on sale in 2019 that it is already subject to delivery waiting times of up to a year.

However, this period is set to extend further as workers down tools at its latest state-of-the-art production facility.

Shutdown: Work has been stopped at Jaguar Land Rover’s factory in Slovakia, where it makes 150,000 of the Defenders a year.

Manufacturers in all industries have been affected by the shortage of semiconductor chips, which pre-dated the pandemic.

Outputs of new cars have been massively impacted, with the latest models becoming increasingly dependent on chips for everything from digital displays to engine management.

Car makers shut their plants during lockdowns, prompting chip makers to switch production to more profitable processors for consumer electronics.

When car factories reopened earlier than expected, there were far fewer chips available than needed.

It has been reported that nearly 100,000 customers are currently waiting for deliveries of Jaguar Land Rover products due to the supply shortage.


Nissan is to announce a major expansion of battery production in Sunderland creating thousands of new jobs both directly and in the supply chain.

The firm, which already makes the Leaf electric car in Sunderland, may also announce the launch of a brand new electric model.

The government is contributing to the overall cost of the project, which is expected to cost hundreds of millions.

The size of the government contribution has not been disclosed.

As a person familiar with the deal put it, the government announced a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030, so it was prepared to support the transition.


Luxury car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover is developing a prototype hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) based on the new Land Rover Defender, with testing scheduled to begin this year.

The FCEV concept is part of Jaguar Land Rover’s aim to achieve zero tailpipe emissions by 2036, and net zero carbon emissions across its supply chain, products and operations by 2039, in linewith the Reimagine strategy announced last month.

JLR operates across manufacturing plants in Merseyside and the West Midlands and, so far, there has been up to 53 engineers from across the business working on the project.

FCEVs, which generate electricity from hydrogen to power an electric motor, are complementary to battery electric vehicles (BEVs) on the journey to net zero vehicle emissions.

Surrounded by a forest of tall green pine trees, 125 miles south of the Arctic circle, a giant electric battery factory is rapidly taking shape on a site as big as 71 football pitches.

The project will be a gigafactory, a term coined by Tesla founder Elon Musk to describe his first high-volume plant for producing lithium-ion electric battery cells, deep in the Nevada desert.

Startup Northvolt, co-founded by two former Tesla executives, is in Skellefteå, a much chillier location, in northern Sweden.

But from here, as well as a base in Västerås just outside Stockholm, it is hoping to provide a quarter of Europe’s electric batteries, as demand for electric vehicles surges amidst the global race tocut carbon emissions.

By 2030, 40% of all new cars sold will be electric according to the latest forecast by the investment bank UBS, rising to almost 100% of the new car market by 2040.

The UK risks being left in the slow lane when it comes to building electric cars, according to a new report.

Influential green group Transport and Environment (T&E) says as recently as 2018, the UK produced roughly half of all electric cars built in Europe.

But it claims a lack of investment by UK manufacturers means that by the end of the decade that figure will have fallen to just 4%.

This comes at a time when the market is expanding rapidly.

As a result, the Brussels-based campaign group says that, despite being one of the first countries to outlaw the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, the UK will be almost wholly reliant on electric vehicles imported from abroad.

The market for electric cars remains relatively small, but it is growing rapidly, largely due to increasingly stringent emissions limits.

A number of European governments have already set targets for phasing out the sale of new petrol and diesel-powered vehicles, in their efforts to meet climate change targets.

Volvo Car Group intends to establish a joint venture with leading Swedish battery company Northvolt to develop and produce more sustainable batteries, tailored to power the next generation of pure electric Volvo and Polestar cars.

As a first step for the 50/50 joint venture, Volvo Car Group and Northvolt aim to set up a research and development center in Sweden that will begin operations in 2022.

The center is intended to build on the battery expertise within both companies and develop next-generation, state-of-the-art battery cells and vehicle integration technologies, specifically developed for use in Volvo and Polestar cars.

The planned joint venture will also establish a new gigafactory in Europe with a potential capacity of up to 50 gigawatt hours (GWh) per year. Production is scheduled to start in 2026.

JCB started a fresh recruitment drive for 500 new shop floor employees as demand for its machinery continues to soar.

The company is setting on the additional agency employees at its 11 plants in Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Wrexham – on top of the 850 shop floor jobs already created so far in 2021.

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