17 March 2014

UK CV Production : 1950 - 2013

Commercial vehicles are a section of the car industry that is overlooked by most. Understandable as we drive cars. So trucks and buses are simply large road users that block our view ahead and go slower than we would like. Basically they are necessary nuisances. However, they are an essential part of society in shipping both goods and people around.

After the Second World War, UK industry switched back to civilian vehicle making and CVs were an important part of that. By 1960, the UK was a major supplier of CVs to many parts of the world. 1969 was the peak at 465,720 (although if you add cars, 1972 was the biggest in the number of vehicles made).

The percentage peak of CV production was in 1951, but as more people were able to afford cars, naturally they became an ever larger part of vehicle manufacturing. However, that doesn't answer the drop that occurred in CV manufacturing in the last few decades. The right column shows that CV manufacturing is now down to 5.5% by unit volume, so what happened?


1950 243,147 6,663 11,347 261,157 33.3%

1960 312,247 126,677 19,048 457,972 25.3%

1970 242,849 191,449 23,234 457,532 21.8%

1980 263,991 103,607 21,572 389,170 29.6%

1990 241,326 27,516 1,504 270,346 17.3%

2000 155,575 14,697 2,170 172,442 9.5%

2010 107,576 10,116 1,508 119,200 8.6%

2013 68,500 16,600 2,600 87,671 5.5%

As UK firms underinvested in both R & D and plant, the whole vehicle making industry suffered. What saved the UK car industry was overseas companies arriving and setting up car making factories. That didn't happen in the CV industry.

The good news for the UK is that heavy truck and bus manufacturing are at least stable and even doing a bit of growing. The bad news is that vans have suffered as Ford first reduced, and has now recently stopped, its Transit production. GM is the only van maker of note, and as long as they continue making Vivaro and Astra vans in the UK, there will still be a figure in the LCV column. 

Summary: UK car making is going really well, but it's CV production is looking rather sad. Still, that is what happens when an industry is neglected.

The Vivaro, mainstay of UK van production

Bedford pic at top from Commercialmotor.com

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