CEO Update

Renewed optimism tempered by a familiar cloud

04 December 2020 #CEO Update

As we turn our backs on November and look towards the final month of what has been an exceptionally tough year for the sector, we finally have some good news as Christmas approaches. With showrooms throughout England now open again across all tiers, and the first coronavirus vaccine approved and ready to roll out in the UK, there is some renewed optimism for 2021.

While the new car figures released today – which show a -27.4% decline in registrations during November – are disappointing, such a fall was inevitable, and the fact that we did not see a wholesale collapse in registrations is evidence of the industry’s ability to adapt. The expansion of click and collect as well as direct delivery services provided an outlet for new car orders to be fulfilled over the course of the month, even if it could not replace the showroom experience.

With full lockdown restrictions now lifted in England and most of the UK’s Covid-secure showrooms now open again, we hope to see some pent-up demand released in December as business returns to some semblance of normality. These are still testing times for the sector, however, with Covid, technological changes and Brexit uncertainty providing a triple whammy of challenges.

As negotiations on the future UK-EU trading relationship continue, we remain hopeful that a deal – and one that works for automotive – will be reached, and with time for businesses to prepare. For UK Automotive to remain globally competitive, a zero tariff, zero quota free trade agreement with workable rules of origin must be wrapped up and ready to go before Christmas. The alternative would be devastating, not only in the immediate future but far beyond as the sector looks to lead the transition to zero emissions with next-generation technology that is not only bought, but engineered and built in Britain.

The Road to Zero will be the focus of SMMT’s Digital Tech Networking: Electrified event on 10 December 2020. Join our panel of experts to explore the opportunities available for the UK Tech Start-up community and how they can bring their innovative solutions to the industry. I encourage you to sign up here.