Car production down nearly 20% but industry feared even greater fall

Photo: Miloš Turek

The production of cars in the Czech Republic – one of the country’s most important industries – declined by no less than 19.2 percent last year. The biggest drop-off in output ever seen stems from restrictions imposed to curb Covid-19 that returned production to 2014 levels, according to data just released by the Association of the Automotive Industry.

The total number of cars produced in the Czech Republic in 2020 was 1.15 million. Around three-quarters of a million of those vehicles rolled off the production line at Škoda Auto, the biggest player in the market and the country’s leading exporter.

Škoda Auto’s output was 17. 4 lower than in 2019. Representatives said the dip could have been even deeper, were it not for an increase in its share of European Union markets and a rise in sales in Russia and Turkey.

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Czech, which operates a plant in North Moravia, saw a fall of 22.9 percent in its output to nearly 239,000 cars.

Meanwhile TPCA, the third major carmaker in the country, registered a drop in production of 21.7 percent at its plant at Kolín in Central Bohemia, a decline partly stemming from construction work to expand production facilities. TPCA made close to 165,000 cars last year.

The president of the Association of the Automotive Industry, Bohdan Wojnar, said on Wednesday that despite the fall-off of almost one-fifth in output the manner in which manufacturers had responded to the given situation was to be admired.

During the restart after shutdowns caused by the first wave of the coronavirus the companies had demonstrated great flexibility, Mr. Wojnar said, adding that their autumn output had been a motor for the whole of Czech industry.

What’s more, the overall falloff for 2020 was lower than industry figures had anticipated when the pandemic first hit the country at the start of March.

The performance of some traditional manufacturers in segments other than passenger cars was to be admired, Mr. Wojnar said.

The competitiveness of car manufacturers was also commendable, especially in view of an EU-wide drop in demand for cars of almost one-quarter, he said.

The big three domestic passenger car manufacturers supplied over 97,000 cars to the Czech market. This meant that once again almost half of the new personal vehicles registered in this country were produced here.

Exports, traditionally strong in this sector, fell by 19.9 percent year-on-year in response to falling demand in the largest markets.

Independent analyst Antonín Šípek told the Czech News Agency that the results may be regarded as satisfactory in view of the global situation.

The fall in the production of passenger cars is roughly in line with sales trends in the main export territories, so there was no inefficient production of vehicles that would then have to remain in storage, Mr Šípek added.

Away from passenger cars, domestic manufacturers produced 5,070 buses in 2020, which was a 2.8 percent decline year-on-year. Iveco produced the lion’s share, with 4,518.

The country’s only lorry manufacturer Tatra Trucks produced 1,180 trucks last year – just one fewer than in the previous year. However motorcycle manufacturer Týnec Jawa saw its production fall by 44 percent.