UK commercial vehicle production grew by 3.3% in September, boosted by high demand for vans, but order for buses and coaches remain at worryingly low levels, new figures have revealed.
Statistics from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) report that 7,603 vans, trucks, taxis and buses were built in Britain last month, an increase of 240 units year-on-year. This increase was driven by several large UK fleet orders.
However, that growth is not the full story. Bus and coach manufacturing continues to suffer from the effects of Covid, with volumes down 43.2% year-on-year to just 63 units. Demand for new buses came to a virtual standstill when the nation entered lockdown in April and, with social distancing measures discouraging public transport usage for most of the year, the fall in demand has caused production to plummet 54.2% to just 756 units so far this year compared with 1,652 in the first nine months of 2019.
Output for the domestic and overseas markets grew 9.2% and 0.3% respectively, with exports making up 64.6% of vehicles produced. Nearly all (95.5%) of the units exported overseas were for the EU market.
Overall in 2020, CV production is down 16.8% on last year, with a shortfall of almost 9,000 units in the first three quarters, much of which is down to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, called for action to help the bus industry. “Fluctuating fleet buying cycles mask the underlying impact of the pandemic on commercial vehicles, but it is the bus and coach sector that is bearing the brunt,” he said. “While manufacturers and their supply chains can flex and adjust, they cannot sustain such low demand for much longer and we urgently need government’s pledge to invest in the buses turned into action.”
Hawes also renewed his call for government negotiators to secure a post-Brexit free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU. “We need negotiators to keep up the momentum to agree an FTA that will safeguard the sector’s future competitiveness in 2021 and beyond,” he said.