LONDON -- UK car production could slump this year to the lowest level in decades after the coronavirus pandemic forced factories to close and hit demand.
Just 197 cars were built in April compared with 71,000 in the same month in 2019, leaving year-to-date production down over a quarter, the SMMT industry association said on Friday said in a news release.
Only some automotive sites have reopened after closures because of coronavirus measures, with the country's largest car plant, Nissan's Sunderland facility, not set to resume production until next month.
"We need government to work with us to accelerate this fundamentally strong sector's recovery, stimulate investment and safeguard jobs," SMMT CEO Mike Hawes said.
Full-year production could fall to as low as 870,000 vehicles, according to a forecast by AutoAnalysis for the SMMT, far below a recent low of 999,460 cars in 2009, during the financial crisis.
Prior to that, output last fell below 1 million in the early 1980s.
This year, Britain's economy may shrink by 13 percent, its deepest recession in three centuries, with two million people potentially losing their jobs, according to the country's budget forecasters.
The pandemic adds to a series of challenges facing automakers including a slump in diesel demand, which has already pulled down British production in recent years, and the cost of meeting stricter emissions rules by electrifying their lineups.