The final countdown to reopening retail
It has been a long wait, but on Monday car showrooms in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will reopen and, after the toughest year for automotive in modern history, there is hope that consumer confidence – and the market – will return.
Manufacturers and their networks have invested heavily in digital channels such as click and collect, which have provided a lifeline for the industry, however, this does not offer the consumer the same experience and excitement as choosing a new car in a showroom.
Reopening will also provide a boost to UK car manufacturing, which has seen output dented as a result of dealers being shuttered, especially important with other markets in the EU heading into fresh lockdowns.
March registrations figures, released this week, highlight just how challenging the environment was in what is traditionally the biggest month of the year for new car sales. Despite seeing growth of 11.5% – which can largely be attributed the increase in fleet sales – this performance is measured against March 2020 when the pandemic first brought the UK to a total standstill halfway through this critical month.
Moreover, when compared to the 2010-2019 March average, sales last month were down -36.9% and with a Q1 shortfall of 58,032 fewer cars registered, at a cost of £1.8bn to industry. Around 8,300 registrations a day are needed for a return to average pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year.
In more encouraging news, the shift to new green technologies continued to show no signs of slowing, with plug-in vehicle demand reaching its highest ever volume, equating to 13.9% of the market.
With 116 plug-in models for consumers to choose from, the range available is larger and more diverse than ever. However, if we are to see a truly green electric revolution more needs to be done to convince private buyers to make the switch.
Investment in charging infrastructure, enhancing the Plug-in Car Grant and providing consumers with VAT exemption on qualifying vehicles, could help increase uptake by almost two thirds by 2026, compared to current projections, and help meet climate change targets.
Elsewhere, as ever, it is set to be a busy few months for SMMT’s International team with a host of virtual events which will focus on key markets across the globe including Japan, US and Europe so please check the website here for more details over the coming weeks.
SMMT will also be organising the UK pavilion at Automechanika Frankfurt 2021 – one of the leading global aftermarket trade shows, and likely to take place in person between 14 and 18 September. There is limited space available, so contact our international team now to register your interest.