Last March few would have anticipated how tough the following days, weeks and months would be for us all as coronavirus ravaged the economy, society and people’s lives. For the automotive sector a particularly difficult time, with companies dealing with the pandemic alongside Brexit and the increasingly rapid technological shifts taking place. Despite the challenges, looking back, the robust and adaptable nature of our industry is clear.
While the second quarter of 2020 was about as tough as it gets, UK automotive turned to producing PPE and ventilators while also providing vehicles for key workers. Moreover, the commercial vehicle sector kept the UK going, supporting emergency services and food delivery whilst garages remained open for service and repair and the nations buses continued to operate.
Now with a path out of the pandemic in the UK, there is cause for optimism that quarter two this year will see us firmly on the road to recovery. The importance of getting car showrooms open again in just under two weeks cannot be overstated. Whilst manufacturing has continued through much of the pandemic, demand has been subdued given the closures of retail in many markets, something that has been hugely damaging to businesses and livelihoods.
Click and collect has provided the industry with a lifeline, testament again to the adaptability of the sector, but it cannot replace the showroom experience. Reopening forecourts means consumers can once again look forward to the excitement of choosing and configuring a new car in person, a choice which now extends to some 150 alternatively fuelled models, 44 of which are battery electric.
For the UK to see a green recovery, getting more vehicles capable of zero emissions on the road will be crucial, and the wide stakeholder engagement with SMMT Electrified last week illustrates just how high is that interest. Yet, words need to be turned into action and manufacturers, who have already invested billions in low and zero emission vehicles, need all stakeholders to play their part, not least by increasing investments in incentives and infrastructure, if we are to enjoy an electric revolution that works for all.
I would wish you all well over the Easter break and hope to meet many of you in person – in a safe and secure manner – again as soon as we are permitted.