Computer chips needed to operate modern cars are in desperately short supply and the impact is accelerating with more automakers forced to curb or shut production, according to a UK industry group.

The Institute of Export & International Trade said the chip shortage seriously threatens any recovery by major auto firms already suffering from the production in 2020 fell to its lowest production levels since World War II because of a sharp drop in demand from coronavirus pandemic lockdowns.

"The slump led auto suppliers to cut production of computer chips central to modern car design, but with demand rising again towards the end of 2020 following a surge of orders from China, firms now don't have enough of them," the institute said, 

German automaker Audi has already said it will delay the production of some "high-end" cars as other industries seek chips to meet an explosion of demand for computers and electronic goods spurred by people working from home.

Consumer electronics such as Apple iPhones, Samsung Galaxy tablets and Sony PlayStation consoles from housebound consumers saw semiconductor makers divert chip production away from the auto industry and towards mobile device over the past months.

Ford in North America, Volkswagen (VW) in Europe and Toyota Motor Company in Japan are all seeing the chip crisis impact output. VW, the world's largest automaker, will curb production at its Wolfsburg plant, the world's largest single car-manufacturing complex, this month.