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Dealer boss on the post-pandemic future of car sales

For the first time since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, new registrations have increased. 283,964 new vehicles hit the UK’s roads in March – 29,280 more than in the same period in 2020.

That first sign of growth is positive news for the industry, even though sales fell 44.4% in March last year when the country was first locked.

Dealers reopened for the first time since early January on Monday when non-essential retailers were forced to close their doors again due to an alarming surge in infections. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) warns that the latest numbers are still 36.9% below the March 10-year average and that the shortfall in the first quarter of this year hit the industry around $ 1.8 billion . GBP.

“Last year was the toughest in modern history and the automotive sector, like many others, was hit hard,” said Mike Hawes, CEO of SMMT. “However, a strong and sustainable market is possible if customers are drawn to the choice and competitive offerings the industry can offer in the safest of showroom environments,” added Hawes.

Autocar spoke to Robert Forrester, CEO of the Vertu Motors dealer chain, about what the industry can expect now that the dealers are back up and running.

Are you optimistic about the future?

“I think we should feel pretty optimistic. I think March was indeed a successful month, really for the industry. Yes, the private new car market was down four percent, but remember, no one has been in a showroom or had a test drive for three months. I thought it was actually a miracle.

“The headline ‘The new car market was on the rise’ was really fleet, wasn’t it, because last year’s fleet volume was severely restricted by the last week of closure. So I wouldn’t read too much about it. But I would definitely read.” A couple of things that will affect the strength of the new car market in March. One of them is … accidental savers. I think many workers have actually saved a lot of money, and they spend their money on new cars.

“I actually think the April market is going to be pretty weird, but if you look at the reopening of Scotland – which reopened on Monday – we saw a surge in business from Monday. Our Scottish dealers on Monday were right at the top of the line our league on sales because people have reluctant to want test drives, which is pretty obvious, especially with new cars and new powertrains, electric vehicles and things like that, so we’re assuming we’ll be busy in England on Monday. “

Are there many people who no longer need a car because they work from home?

“No, I do not think so. This homework fad is a very passing phenomenon. It may be different in their home countries and in London, but I still think that most employers want their people back more often than not. And when you get out of London [innovation?] The world will quickly return to normal. And cars will be in great demand, I think.

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