UK commercial vehicle manufacturing picked up in June, but the growth failed to offset the impact of Covid-19 as overall half-year output plummeted by almost a quarter, new figures show.

UK CV production increased by 23.9% last month, with 4,144 trucks, vans and buses leaving production lines, according to the SMMT.

It said this increase followed a particularly weak June 2019, when output fell by more than a half due to key model changeovers.

However, even though production ramped up, the first six months of 2020 saw total output fall by 24.8% on the same period in 2019 as the lockdown of global markets forced factories to mothball operations.

The SMMT said first half production for the home market decreased by 23.3%, while exports fell 26%, with just 14,613 units shipped overseas.

Exports accounted for 55.3% of all UK CV manufacturing – with the majority heading for the EU.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said the increase in June was good news, but it did not mean business was returning to normal and he urged the government to act: “The sector remains almost 9,000 units behind 2019, which will be difficult to catch back given many plants are still operating at a reduced capacity,” he said.

“The government urgently needs to assist this critical sector by building operator confidence domestically and by ensuring competitive conditions are in place to drive long-term growth and safeguard jobs.

“That must start with securing an ambitious and truly tariff-free EU-UK FTA – and quickly.”