Automotive News, July 2021


Vauxhall owner Stellantis has announced plans to build electric vans at its Ellesmere Port plant in Cheshire.  The £100m investment, which the UK government will contribute to, will safeguard more than 1,000 factory jobs.

The future of the plant has been in doubt after Vauxhall’s parent company scrapped plans to build its new Astra model there.

The Ellesmere Port plant will also make electric passenger car models for Vauxhall, Opel, Peugeot and Citroën.  Production of an all-electric van will start in 2022, the carmaker said.

The government has held talks with Stellantis about options for the Cheshire factory and ministers are understood to have offered about £30m in financial support.

Registrations in June grew 28.0% year-on-year to 186,128, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT)’s latest figures. The monthly performance was again artificially lifted through comparison with June 2020, when the UK began to emerge from the first pandemic lockdown and showrooms in England opened up at the beginning of the month.

Compared with the previous decade average, however, monthly registrations were down -16.4%, while total registrations for Q2 2021 fell short of industry expectations by around 9,000 units partly as the ongoing global semiconductor shortage acted as a limiting factor on supply.1 As a result, overall registrations for the first half of the year are down -26.8%.2

With the latest SMMT research showing electrification could create 40,000 new jobs by 2030, plug-in vehicles continued to increase market share.3 Combined, battery electric (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) accounted for 17.2% of new vehicles hitting the road (31,981 units). BEVs accounted for more than one in 10 registrations (10.7%). PHEV uptake, however, continued to grow faster than BEV uptake for the third month running, following reductions to the Plug-in Car Grant in March.

The light commercial vehicle (LCV) market growth was tempered after a bumper recovery in April and May, with 34,363 vans registered in the month, according to the latest figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). The month’s performance was down -13.9% on 2019, a shortfall of some 5,566 units as supply shortages – notably of semi-conductors – affected production volumes and caused delays in the market. Nevertheless, van registrations remain up 14.4% on Covid-impacted 2020.

Year-to-date figures were up 75.9% on last year, and up 1.8% on the pre-pandemic 2015-2019 five-year average. In total 191,513 new vans have exchanged hands, meaning that 2021 is currently the third best year for van uptake since records began. Demand for vans was particularly bolstered by operators looking to renew and expand their fleets to meet rising online delivery business and demand from the construction sector.

Long-established family business Pelican Engineering, based in West Yorkshire, has delivered the first vehicles in an order for 55 Yutong buses to McGill’s Group in Glasgow.

The zero-emission vehicles are destined for use on routes around the city and Renfrewshire, including during the forthcoming COP26 climate change conference, as part of the bus operator’s investment into clean technology.  All of the 55 buses will be fully commissioned and completed at Pelican in Castleford by the third generation family business which employs 160 people.

The Yutong E12 electric bus model provides zero emission at the point of use, bringing benefits to air quality and the environment.

Yutong, which has been supplying Pelican exclusively in the UK for the last five years, has become the largest bus manufacturer in the world accounting for 15% of the global market.

Coventry’s Dynamo Motor Company has announced plans to recruit 275 people and convert up to 10,000 taxis and commercial/privately owned vehicles per year in 2026.

Through its Seedrs campaign Dynamo Motor Company plans to raise £2m, of which it has received over £1.5m in one week, for its growth strategy.

The expansion will see Dynamo Motor Company’s all-electric Black Cab production increase and diversification into other mobility sectors that require wheelchair accessibility as well as a last mile delivery van added to its zero emission line-up.

Aston Martin has bounced back in the first half of 2021 after a car-crash of a year that wasn’t entirely the fault of Covid-19.

A disastrous IPO in late 2018 and an underwhelming performance, which resulted in it losing 90% of its market value inside 12 months, tarnished the brand and sent the manufacturer into a spin.  The group is now seeing progress on its strategy to be “one of the greatest ultra-luxury car brands in the world”.

The carmaker shifted 2,901 cars to wholesale in the six months to June, more than treble last year and almost back to 2019 levels.

It achieved revenues of £499m, which outperformed 2019, and its pre-tax loss of £90.7m was only £10m worse than two years ago. In the first half of 2020 the group lost £227m.

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) owner Tata Motors says it is still feeling the strain of the global semiconductor shortage, but car sales are recovering after the pandemic.  JLR, which brings in most of the group’s revenue, saw sales rise 68% year-on-year.

But Tata said the chip supply shortage was likely to worsen in the short term.  This meant that JLR production in the next quarter could be cut in half, it said.

Tata’s losses for April to June narrowed to $598m (£432.7m), after a loss of more than $1bn in the previous three months.

UK car production is still much lower than it needs to be due to shortages of staff and semiconductors, the industry is warning.  The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said just 69,097 cars were produced in June, the lowest since 1953, with the exception of last year.

The trade body is calling for urgent assistance to exempt staff pinged by the NHS Covid app.  SMMT said the industry was “desperately trying to get back to full capacity”.

Ideally, the UK car industry needed to get back to producing between 1.2 million to 1.3 million vehicles a year, Mr Hawes added.

UK car plants turned out 498,923 cars in the first half of 2021, 38.4% lower than the five-year average. This is equivalent to losses of about £8.5bn, the SMMT said.  Some firms had resorted to reducing shifts, but the true impact of the staff shortages would not be felt until the annual car plant summer shutdowns ended, it added.

The SMMT is calling on the government to bring forward the 16 August target date for exempting fully vaccinated adults from self-isolation, as well as introducing a “test to release” scheme to support those employees not yet fully vaccinated.