CEO Update

Why we need our Covid-secure car showrooms open

06 November 2020 #CEO Update

This week has seen growing uncertainty across multiple fronts, with England moving into a new lockdown, a second wave of coronavirus bringing fresh restrictions across the Continent and a dramatic, perhaps unprecedented, US Presidential Election, which, at the time of writing, continues to play out. As the success of business is dependent on confidence and certainty, the direction of travel is extremely challenging.

With the UK new car market already falling by -1.6% during the month of October – a nine year low for the sector – a month of showroom closures raises another a major hurdle. While the continuation of click & collect and delivery services is welcome, and should help prevent a return to the sales wipe-out experienced in the spring, it cannot offset the loss of custom from the closure of showrooms themselves, given the unique nature of the car purchase process.

What is not in doubt, however, is that the entire industry now faces an even tougher end to the year as businesses desperately try to manage resources, stock, production and cashflow in the penultimate month before the inevitable upheaval of Brexit.

The Chancellor’s announcement on Thursday regarding the extension of the Coronavirus Job Support Scheme provides a welcome lifeline for the industry. We need every manufacturer and every retailer to hold on to skilled, viable jobs and we hope that all those forced to close will be able to open up quickly, and remain open, avoiding a long-term dependency on furlough.

Keeping showrooms open – some of the most Covid-secure retail environments around – would also help cushion the blow but, more than ever, we need a tariff-free deal with the EU to provide some much-needed respite for an industry that is resilient but massively challenged. With talks ongoing, we continue to urge both sides to work together with vigour to secure an FTA that prioritises the needs of the automotive sector.

Meanwhile, today marks the launch of the new SMMT Economic Intelligence Update exclusively for our members. Aimed at keeping members informed on the latest news from the automotive sector, this weekly update will include industry headlines and releases from the UK and across the globe, the latest government releases and key economic and industry indicators. Members can access this update by clicking here.

Finally, I leave you with news that the ongoing pandemic means that, very sadly, this year we will be unable to host the SMMT Annual Dinner. This will be the first time that a Dinner has not taken place since World War II. However, we believe the show must go on, and so I’m delighted to announce its digital replacement, SMMT 2020 Update – Live, which will take place online from 13:00 on Tuesday 24 November.

Both I and SMMT’s President, Dr George Gillespie OBE, invite you to join us – to raise at least a virtual glass to our sector – as we look back on a year of twists, turns, challenges but also achievements, and ahead to a new era for UK Automotive, and what we need to make it a success. We’ll also be announcing the winners of Autocar’s first Drivers of Change Awards, which seeks to promote talent across all age-groups looking to action change in the industry through innovative thinking. For more information, and to book your place, please click here.

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