CEO Update

A new year brings new challenges

15 January 2021 #CEO Update

With stories of sandwich confiscations and rotting fish emanating from UK-EU borders this week, it’s clear that, despite the avoidance of ‘no deal’, businesses can expect turbulence in the days and weeks ahead. Some issues were inevitable given the substantial change that has taken place in terms of UK-EU and GB-NI trade but other impacts are emerging.

Given the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) was signed just before the end of the transition period, the knock-on effect has been that businesses have had very little time to fully adjust. Many automotive firms have spent the first weeks of 2021 understanding what the agreement means for them and embedding new processes for moving goods between affected borders.

This is not a straightforward transition and SMMT remains on hand to keep the sector updated with the latest news and information for the new changes that came into effect from 1 January via our Brexit hub which is regularly updated.

On top of this, the worsening pandemic continues to batter the sector with the need to restrict public movements understandable and essential. During the lockdown, automotive retailers have been able to operate click and collect services which have been undertaken safely given the wide range of Covid-secure measures in place, the relatively low footfall, appointment basis and the fact that handovers have to be outdoors. Despite these challenges, the system appears to be working as well as can be expected and is critical to the provision of essential mobility for consumers, businesses and essential services and fundamental to the continued operation of manufacturing.

With the vaccination rollout appearing to be on track there is, hopefully, a way out of the crisis. For automotive, this must mean fully reopening car showrooms as soon as possible. Great steps have already been taken by the industry to ensure dealers are Covid-secure but, with the crucial month of March looming and restrictions in place for the foreseeable, the success of the entire business year is under threat. For the latest updates on what the pandemic means for automotive I encourage you to check SMMT’s dedicated Covid-19 support hub.

On a lighter note, grey was revealed as the top new car colour for 2020 – surely reflecting the mood of the UK over the past 12 months – according to the latest figures released by SMMT. The monochrome podium was completed with black in second place and white in third. BEVs and PHEVs bucked the grey national trend with the most popular colours for these AFVs white and black respectively.

Finally, it has a been a busy start to the year for SMMT’s International team who have hosted a virtual presence at two international technology events already, including CES “in” Las Vegas with SMMT joining the online UK pavilion and virtual participation at EV100 Forum in Beijing. This is a key event, bringing together senior attendees from Chinese manufacturers, suppliers and Government. SMMT joined the UK – China session, which took place earlier today, and at which we concluded a Strategic Co-operation Agreement with EV100. Alongside our existing international relationships, the agreement is another important step for SMMT as we look to support companies to do business in many of the world’s largest automotive markets.

EV100 continues this weekend with live streams available, contact the International team for details.

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