COVID-impacted UK car market suffered 29.4% decline in 2020 – AM Online

The UK’s franchised car retailers have been praised for their ability to adapt and meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic after the SMMT reported a 29.4% decline in new car registrations during 2020. Reacting to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ (SMMT) latest registrations data this morning (January 6), National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) chief executive, Sue Robinson, said that the sector’s efforts had mitigated the impact of the pandemic, adding that it was “well placed for growth” despite this week’s return to lockdown. [...]

Further new car sales coverage

Can I still buy a car during the latest coronavirus lockdown? – What Car?

Car dealers across the UK are being told that showrooms must close once again during our third lockdown - but it is still possible to buy a new or used car during this time.

During the previous lockdown in late 2020, car dealers were allowed to sell cars to customers online and let them take delivery via a contactless service, and many are saying they will continue to trade using this formula during the latest lockdown.

Cars can be collected from dealerships in no-contact formats with the keys and documents sanitised and placed in a sealed bag for the customer to collect. Cars are also sanitised prior to collection and many dealers are offering handover videos to talk buyers through the main controls of their new car, or Whatsapp video chats with the salesperson sitting in an identical car to run through the controls while the customer sits in their new car. [...]

Car buyers’ response to COVID-19 lockdown will be key, say dealers – AM Online

Customers’ response to the latest COVID-19 lockdown measures in England and Scotland will be key to the automotive retail sector’s success in delivering click and collect car sales in the coming months.

That is the verdict of industry leaders who spoke to AM this morning in the wake of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement, last night (January 4), that England would be following Scotland into a period of renewed COVID-19 lockdown. While the sector is far more resilient than it was in March last year – with leaner operations and increased online sales provision – consumer confidence and a strong ‘stay at home’ message remain among the major hurdles to be overcome.

Robert Forrester, the chief executive of Vertu Motors, said: “Without a doubt we will be forced to return some of our staff to furlough. We will have to match our resources to market demand. There is, once again, a clear ‘stay at home’ message in place now and another real handicap we have is the inability to conduct test drives. For those people that won’t buy a car without a test drive that remains a huge hurdle to overcome. The reaction of customers to the lockdown, and the advice that they aren’t to travel, will be key to our businesses in the coming weeks.”

Government's guidance states that individuals must not leave home without a “reasonable excuse” to do so. Reasonable excuses include work (where this cannot be done from home), essential activities such as shopping or exercise.

Daksh Gupta, the chief executive of Marshall Motor Holdings, said: “Timing is an issue right now. We really needed more time to see what January demand was going to be like. Right now we’re not going to panic. We know the furlough scheme is there if we need it.”

Stuart Foulds Trustford chairman and chief executive, Stuart Foulds, said that he expected to return staff to furlough following the announcement of a further lockdown and fears how long the situation will go on for. He said: “Logistically I understand that it’s likely to take to the end of this year to get the population immunised. I very much doubt we’re going to return to normal trading conditions at the end of Q1.”

Better placed businesses

With Government acting to support businesses once more and the sector already geared to deliver the click and collect sales service allowed under the renewed lockdown rules, however, most retailers feel they are well-placed to deliver all the sales they possibly can. [...]

Most dealers feel ready for Jan 28 motor finance changes – AM Online

Just over half of UK motor retailers believe they’re ready for the changes to motor finance rules which are being brought in on January 28.

Almost a quarter of respondents to AM’s latest poll, which asked whether they were training staff on commission disclosure ahead of the January changes implemented by the Financial Conduct Authority, think there’s no extra need for staff training, while slightly more say they’ve already brought their workforce up to speed. But when the poll ran between November and December almost one-in-two dealers were still planning to bring in more training before the new rules come info force.

Following the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) 2018/19 motor finance review, it has stipulated that from January 28 dealers and brokers must prominently disclose that they earn commission from arranging motor finance where knowledge of that commission could have a material impact on the car buyer’s decision to sign.

Keen to ensure consumers are treated fairly, the FCA has also banned certain commission models which previously allowed dealers and brokers to ramp up their rates and earnings. In December research by Close Brothers Motor Finance found that although 69% of motor retailers have heard about the changes only 33% of those have actually read the FCA's details explaining them. [...]

Auto Trader axes February fees for car dealers in COVID-19 lockdown – AM Online

Auto Trader has announced that it will axe car dealers advertising package fees for February following the announcement of renewed COVID-19 lockdown measures across the UK.

The online classified advertising giant said that retailers’ payment terms for January services will also be extended by 30 days as part of the assistance which aims to offer a “helping hand” to businesses in what chief executive Nathan Coe hopes will be the “final hurdle” of the pandemic.

In its statement, issued via the London Stock Exchange today, Auto Trader said that its support would help to ease retailers’ cash flow and enable them to come back quickly as soon as the restrictions are eased. [...]

Hyundai in early stage talks with Apple over electric car tie-up – Financial Times

Shares in Hyundai Motor surged after the carmaker confirmed early stage discussions with Apple about building an electric vehicle in what could mark the US tech group’s eagerly-awaited move into the industry. “Apple and Hyundai are in discussions, but as it is at an early stage, nothing has been decided,” South Korea’s Hyundai said in a statement to the Financial Times on Friday. However, the carmaker played down its certainty of the potential partnership, adding that Apple was speaking with “a variety of global carmakers”. The US tech group declined to comment. [...]

Sytner donates £40,000 to motor industry charity Ben – Motor Trader

Sytner has donated £40,000 to Ben, the largest single sum it has ever made to the automotive charity. Ben is under pressure in the pandemic, caught between a £1m shortfall in funds and a 52% increase in demand for its services. In 2020 it launched an appeal for funds and has just announced a new virtual fundraising challenge for 2021 called “Breakout for Ben”.

Sytner, which has supported Ben for 27 years, will be encouraging its staff to sign up to the new fundraising venture. In keeping with social distancing guidelines, the £40,000 donation was unveiled to a representative of Ben on Zoom.

Matt Wigginton, fundraising director at Ben, said: “We can’t begin to thank Sytner enough for their support over the years, including this latest donation, which is very generous.

“Sytner’s donation also represents a key milestone as it has taken us over the halfway point on our road to £1m, to address the income shortfall that the charity faced in 2020.”

Melvin Rogers, director of human resources at Sytner Group, said: “The health and wellbeing of our colleagues is of the upmost importance and we’re pleased that our donation will allow Ben to continue the fantastic support that they offer to everyone within Sytner and the wider automotive industry.

“This year has been especially tough for colleagues, so the services that Ben offer are now even more vital than ever. We’re proud to continue our support of Ben and that our donation was able to push them over their target at a time they need it most.”