London’s anti-car policies could jeopardise COVID-19 recovery – AM Online

London’s “anti-car” transport policies could jeopardise the capital’s COVID-19 recovery according to critics of a push towards cycling and walking as coronavirus lockdown measures are eased.

The London congestion charge and ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) have been reintroduced from today (May 18), just over a month before the congestion charge’s planned June 22 increased from £11.50 to £15 per day including weekends.

AM’s sister title, Fleet News, reported that cash-strapped Transport for London (TfL) announced it was re-activating both schemes despite securing a £1.6 billion bailout from the Government last week.

As well as the introduction of weekend congestion zone charging, and the increased price from next month, the scheme’s operating hours will be temporarily increased, extending its daily limit from 6pm to 10pm.

Vertu Motors chief executive, Robert Forrester, described the move as “Sadiq Khan’s (pictured) radical anti-car plan for London”, adding that it was “just the beginning”.

He added: “This is big news for the auto sector with no arguing the case for the excellent, environmentally friendly new cars that are available and provide individuals with mobility freedom.”…

Pre-sale used car valuations achieved during lockdown, says BCA – Fleet News

BCA Valuations reports that pre-sale valuations averaged 100.2% during the first weeks of the Covid-19 lockdown in virtual sales held by the vehicle auction company.

BCA’s Virtual Sales are held in real time with competitive bidding and accessed through BCA Online and the BCA Buyer app.

It says its Decision Intelligence team has kept abreast of the complex and evolving picture in the wholesale sector, ensuring sellers have real-time data to inform remarketing decisions.

Ben Downe, Decision Intelligences director at BCA, explained: “Given the rapidly changing circumstances the used car sector is operating under, it is imperative we deliver accurate and timely valuation data for all our customers, both buyers and sellers alike.”

He says that the BCA Valuations model is accurately reflecting the current trading environment and averaging 100.2% of current virtual sale auction prices.

“We continue to monitor market performance to ensure we maintain that level of accuracy,” he added.

“This insight is helping BCA customers to trade with confidence in a difficult marketplace and is critical to keeping the used vehicle sector moving at this time.”…

IMI launches Furlough Register to support apprentices – AM Online

The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) is providing free learning resources to automotive sector apprentices to ensure they continue learning even when furloughed.

New data suggests there could be a skills challenge post-COVID-19 as more than half of apprentices in the industry have been furloughed and 83% say they are unable to continue study in the same way as before the lockdown.

Steve Nash, chief executive of the IMI, said: “There has been much already said about the impact of COVID-19 on our future generations and this has been brought into sharp focus by our on-going study of the sector.

“Not surprisingly – but disappointingly all the same – it seems that apprentices have been an obvious group to furlough in order to manage costs. And whilst this does offer some level of job security, for the time-being, what seems to have been missed is that furloughing doesn’t mean individuals can’t still study and access the support they need to continue their learning.

“This is a big concern for us in terms of whether the apprentices will actually return to the workplace at the end of the furlough period. And that is not only a risk for the sector as it needs to be well prepared and well-skilled for the next generation of automotive technology. It is also a huge waste of the investment already made by the apprentices, their training centres and employers.”

The IMI is running an on-going study of the automotive sector and how it is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, with its own clear focus on skills and supporting the next generation of workers, the IMI has researched the impact of the economic fallout on automotive retail apprentices.

Early results suggest that urgent action is needed to ensure that the after-effects of COVID-19 don’t undermine the upskilling required for the new automotive technologies coming down the line.

Only 17% of apprentices say they have been able to continue their studies with little or no change. By contrast, 39% of apprentices have outlined significant barriers for continuing with their studies, while 18% stated that they have been unable to engage with their employer at all…

Valuations market leader Cap HPI stopped adjusting wholesale prices after lockdown was announced on March 23 as its feed of around 40,000 wholesale price records per week dropped to just a couple of thousands in the first four weeks.

Head of valuations Derren Martin said price volumes had slowly increased since mid-April, and on reaching 12% of normal its analysts and editors have begun reviewing prices, alhough not of ‘late-plate’ cars due to the paucity of data…

Hendy opens all of its aftersales centres in the south – Motor Trader

Hendy has become the latest dealer group to open all of its service centres after initially keeping four sites open for essential maintenance to key worker vehicles.

Hendy has introduced the changes to its service centres to comply with Government guidelines.

Customers will be given a timeslot in which to come in for their service to reduce the number of people in waiting areas, and all aftersales departments and waiting areas will feature clear signage to indicate two metre distances as well as hand sanitising stations to ensure the safety of customers and colleagues.

Where possible, all paperwork will be digital to avoid unnecessary physical contact and all payments are requested to be by card rather than cash. Vehicle collection and delivery will be unavailable until further notice.

Hendy said it had seen “high demand” from customers throughout the lockdown.

Group service director Pete Walker said: “We have worked hard to ensure the dealerships are in keeping with the Government guidelines on social distancing and we have been thorough in our approach bringing in all the necessary changes.”

“All customer vehicles will be thoroughly sanitised before collection using KleenAir Bio Steri-7, an effective product that keeps surfaces protected for up to seven days following application.

“We have seen an incredibly high volume of enquiries from customers through our digital channels while our physical dealerships were closed. We’re looking forward to welcoming customers back through our doors and continuing to deliver a premium experience in person.”

Apprentice numbers set to fall as dealers freeze recruitment – Motor Trader

The number of apprentices in the motor retail sector is set to fall as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to new research carried out by the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) a quarter (26%) of dealer said they were unlikely to employ any apprentices in 2020.

It found that 40% are currently reviewing their apprentice plans, with a view to “significantly reducing” or “possibly abandoning” apprentice recruitment for the rest of this year. Only 9% say their apprentice recruitment plans are unchanged

Steve Nash, CEO of the Institute of the Motor Industry has, this week, written to Gillian Keegan, MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Apprenticeships & Skills requesting that the current clawback applied to unused Apprenticeship Levy funds is halted for a two year period.

The IMI said it had taken the action in response to calls from its members and largest employers to address the potentially devastating impact of COVID-19 on future skills.

The IMI is currently undertaking researchamongst the largest employers in the sector to understand the effects of COVID-19 on both current apprentice employment and future apprentice recruitment plans. Whilst the research is on-going, early findings have given the IMI considerable cause for concern.

The IMI said its numbers were in line with the estimation by FISSS (Federation for Industry Sector Skills & Standards) of a cumulative loss of 119,077 apprentices across all Standards and Frameworks due to COVID-19, representing a 30% fall in numbers in 2020…

Inchcape’s revenues drop 32% due to coronavirus impact – AM Online

Inchcape’s revenues have dropped 32% in the first four months of 2020 as the international auto retailer and distributor battled coronavirus impact.

Revenues were down to £2.1 billion. Sales were down 41% at Its retail operations and 23% at its distribution businesses.

In Europe, it said, prior to COVID-19 enforce lockdowns the revenue performance “had been solid”.

“As of today, we are open in 25 markets (including Australia, Hong Kong and Ethiopia), and remain closed in eight markets (including UK, Singapore and Chile).

“Since our update on April 7, while we have had no additional closures, trading has recommenced in several markets (including Belgium, Greece and Colombia).

“Inchcape has taken prompt action to optimise cash flow, reduce costs and strengthen further our liquidity position in light of the current market environment.”

Measures include suspending its share buyback programme, cancelling its £70m final dividend payment in April, participation in the UK’s COVID Corporate Financing Facility, reducing discretionary costs and a 20% cut in Q2 salary for its board and senior managers.

In April, overall group revenues were down 76% like-for-like, mainly due to the disruption caused by Covid-19.

“The impact of closures on profitability will be pronounced, and result in a drop-through to operating profit of approximately 10% of lost revenues,” Inchcape said…

Pendragon to roll out home delivery following Car Store deployment – Motor Trader

Pendragon is to roll out home delivery across its business following successful deployment on its used car business Car Store.

Since April, it has taken 3,610 orders and provided home delivery for 1,187 cars. It said that while the numbers were lower than usual because of the shutdown it was seeing increasing daily orders, particularly in used cars.

In a trading statement it said recorded an underlying loss before tax of £2.3m in Q1 an improvement of £0.5m from the Q1 FY19 underlying loss before tax of £2.8m, despite COVID-19 disruption.

Underlying operating profit in the franchised arm was £4.4m, down £4.7m year on year.

It has been gradually gearing up aftersales with 24 centres opening in April. There are now 125 open out of a total of 145 with staff levels of 20%.

Bill Berman, chief executive, said: “The actions we took during the second half of 2019 to focus on costs and to reduce used stock levels started to show results both during that period and on into the first quarter of 2020, resulting in increased profitability in Q1, despite the impact of the pandemic.

“The commercial consequences of a full lockdown have obviously affected the business, but we moved quickly to implement a broad range of actions to mitigate the enforced closure, and I am confident that we will emerge in a strong position as the current restrictions ease.

“We are now preparing to reopen from 1 June and will therefore have the capabilities in place to meet the full needs of our customers across new, used and aftersales, as well as driving our “We come to you” online offer.”