UK car production declined -29.3% in 2020, to 920,928 units, according to the latest figures issued by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). December, output was down -2.3% to 71,403, with some firms affected by border closures and thus component supply issues. This rounded off a dreadful year, the worst since 1984 for UK car makers, with the pandemic chiefly responsible for the decline. Manufacturing operations were severely disrupted throughout 2020, with lockdowns and social distancing measures restricting factory output, Brexit uncertainty continuing until Christmas Eve and depressed market demand in key export destinations.
Production for overseas buyers fell -29.1% in the year, to 749,038 units, while output for the UK also fell in double-digits, down -30.4% to 171,890. Even amid the global pandemic, exports continued to drive UK car manufacturing, however, with more than eight in 10 of all cars made shipped overseas. Reinforcing the importance of avoiding ‘no deal’ tariffs with Europe, the EU remained the UK’s biggest export destination, taking a 53.5% share, despite volumes falling -30.8% to 400,460 units.
The Brunel Centre for Advanced Solidification Technology (BCAST) has joined a major new multi-million-pound project to help design new light-weight battery casings for the next generation of electric cars.
Funded by £3.3m from Innovate UK, LIBERATE – Lightweight Innovative Battery Enclosures using Recycled Aluminium Technologies – aims to use high-strength, low weight aluminium alloys to design a battery enclosure that is 30% lighter than current designs, whilst reducing material costs by up to 60%.
Nissan will build EV batteries in the UK in order to comply with the terms of the Brexit deal and has committed to the future of its Sunderland factory.
Batteries for the top-rung 62kWh version of the Leaf electric hatchback are currently produced in the USA and imported to the UK, while lower-capacity 40kWh units are built at Sunderland by Chinese firm Envision Group, which will also handle production of the larger units.
Shifting all battery production to the UK will mean Nissan avoids incurring tariffs on the 70% of Leaf models built for export under the terms of the new trade deal, which states that at least 55% of a vehicle’s material value must come from the UK or EU to avoid penalties.
Speaking to the BBC, Nissan chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta said: “The Brexit deal is positive for Nissan. Being the largest auto maker in the UK, we are taking this opportunity to redefine auto-making in the UK.”
The head of Vauxhall’s parent company has warned that it will no longer invest in pure diesel or petrol cars at its Ellesmere Port plant.
Carlos Tavares said the future of the Cheshire plant depended on where his company, Stellantis, decided to make new-generation of electric vehicles.
He said a decision would be made in the next few weeks, and depend on the UK government’s support of the car sector.
Over 1,000 people work at the plant, with many more in the supply chain.
Burnaston-based Toyota says it achieved a record-breaking performance in the UK new car market in 2020, despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Year-end results show it achieved its highest market share yet at 5.19 per cent; highest share of the passenger car market at 5.6% and its highest share as a group (including Lexus) at 5.9%.
Although sales volume was reduced, Toyota’s decline of -12.6% was the lowest among volume manufacturers and significantly less than the -29.4% fall recorded by the UK market as a whole.
Within the past year, Toyota also recorded its best individual monthly market shares in March and September – the critical registration plate-change months – across the board for Toyota passenger cars, total Toyota brand vehicles and the Toyota (GB) group.
Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) will steer a consortium-led initiative to make electric vehicles (EVs) lighter while also enabling larger batteries to be fitted to increase range.
JLR will help deliver the Tucana project – a four-year programme that will replace some aluminium and steel components of EVs with composites such as carbon fibre. It is believed that these composites will be able to handle increased torque generated by bigger batteries while reducing the overall weight of the car – improving efficiency and reducing carbon emissions as a result.
The project states that more than 4.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions could be prevented between 2023 and 2032.
Norton, the motorbike manufacturer is closing its Castle Donington base and moving to a new manufacturing plant in Solihull.
The new facility, on Solar Park, is the result of a multimillion-pound investment by Norton’s Indian parent company TVS Motor Company, which says it will be the most advanced in the 122-year-old motorcycle brand’s history.
Fifty jobs will be created with the prospect of more to follow, says Norton. Commissioning is near completion and opening is expected in Q1 of this year.
The premises will be the central hub for all of Norton operations, providing a permanent base for all staff. The new headquarters will be home to design, engineering, purchasing, sales, marketing, and support teams as well as the skilled production team that is resuming manufacture of motorcycles.
Some of the specialist tooling and equipment previously used by Norton has been carried over to the new site in Solihull, but the site is benefiting from substantial new investment.