The general election campaign has brought with it some much needed respite from the protracted Brexit saga, injecting some political impetus back into the issues that vehicle retailers want addressed in the next parliament.
Beyond clarifying the nature of the UK’s trading relationship with international trading partners, the auto retail sector’s priorities for the next government are to restore certainty over policies for diesel and electric vehicles, as well as tackling the increasing cost of doing business.
A key battleground in this election is the environment, with both main parties brandishing their green credentials to the electorate. The manifesto proposals for road transport will give dealers some food for thought; both Labour and the Conservatives indicate they will bring forward the date on which new petrol and diesel car sales will be phased out – the Conservatives will consult on the earliest possible date “whilst minimising the impact on drivers and businesses”, with Labour declaring their ambition to see this brought forward to 2030.
Pledges to invest in recharging infrastructure are made by both parties, with a specific pledge by the Conservatives’ to ensure that everyone is within 30 miles of a rapid electric vehicle charging station. Labour meanwhile have pledged to introduce a scrappage scheme for older vehicles and kickstart a national network of locally run electric car clubs, as well as a pledge to fund 2.5 million interest-free electric car loans, announced at party conference.
On taxation, the parties have turned their attention towards the Business Rates system, with broad support across party lines for a review of how the tax is measured and levied. This is good news for dealers, who were hit particularly hard by the 2017 revaluation after making large investments into their sites.
The Conservatives, whilst not taking a stance on how it should change, have pledged to review the operation of business rates and announced an increase of Retail Rate Relief to 50% - although the latter applies only to small businesses. Labour’s alternative approach, subject to consultation, favours replacing rates with a ‘Land Value Tax’ on commercial property owners, one of the many alternative systems discussed in the Treasury Committee’s recent inquiry into business rates.
Beyond the election, we can expect the Commons Transport Committee to launch its call for views on the efficacy of a national road pricing system in the UK, as rising electric car sales begin to eat into vehicle excise duty and fuel duty revenue to the Treasury.
No matter the outcome of December’s election, the next government is likely to have a greater impact on the auto retail operating environment than any other in recent history.
As your trade body, NFDA will continue to lobby government and parliament to ensure that the views and concerns of our members are heard at the highest level.