In the ever evolving and bustling domain of the automotive industry, March witnessed a flurry of engagements, advancements, and endeavours across diverse sectors. As a comprehensive update for NFDA members, here's a detailed account of the noteworthy events that unfolded throughout the month.

NFDA Engagement:

NFDA attended an MOT stakeholder meeting in Birmingham on March 7th to discuss phase 2 of the ongoing MOT consultation test regulations. In January, the Department for Transport announced that the first MOT test would remain at 3 years, despite early consultation on moving it from 3 to 4, which the NFDA urged not to be implemented. The meeting identified areas for improving the MOT regime, focusing on enhancing services for vehicle owners, supporting testers and garages, enforcement, and exploring emerging technology.

On March 12, NFDA attended a roundtable at the Department for Transport with the Minister for Decarbonisation of Road Transport, Anthony Browne MP. This provided a platform to exchange perspectives on key issues shaping the automotive sector’s future. NFDA engaged in discussions regarding electric vehicles (EVs), the ZEV mandate, and charging infrastructure, and emphasized the need for financial incentives for consumers transitioning to EVs.

The month continued with NFDA’s attendance at ‘SMMT Connected’ on March 14. An event serving as a focal point for exploring the latest advancements in connected and automated vehicle technology which allowed NFDA representatives to witness firsthand the innovations propelling the future of transportation.

As the automotive landscape undergoes rapid transformation, understanding the evolving dynamics of retail becomes imperative for the NFDA. Participation in Auto Trader's March 20 event, 'The Road Ahead for Automotive Retail,' provided invaluable insights into the factors reshaping the retail ecosystem. Discussions delved into aspects such as digitalisation and changing consumer behaviours.

Finally, the NFDA hosted the first regional meetings of 2024 across the country, where members came together to share perspectives, concerns, and experiences in the current economic and industry climate. This forum not only facilitated robust discussions but also provided constructive conversations.

UK Government:

The UK Government's Spring Budget was delivered by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt MP on 6 March. Despite calls in the NFDA’s budget submission for price incentives for EVs, the budget did not address this issue leaving the UK as one of the only major European markets to not offer some form of incentive. However, the budget did include a reduction of National Insurance by an additional 2%, a measure that has now received Royal Assent.

Additional updates in the Spring Budget encompassed the extension of the 5p fuel duty reduction, which remains unchanged for an additional 12 months. Additionally, the scope of full expensing has been broadened to encompass leased assets, while the VAT threshold increases from £85,000 to £90,000.

However, notable in its absence from the Chancellor's address was any mention of the Apprenticeship Levy or broader reforms pertaining to apprenticeships. NFDA voiced apprehension considering the deepening skills deficit within the motor industry.

In the realm of EVs infrastructure, significant progress is being made. Funding amounting to hundreds of millions has been allocated to facilitate the charging of EVs. The government remains committed to its £381 million Local Electric Vehicle (LEVI) fund for councils. Notably, as of March 18, approvals for payments have been extended to an additional 44 councils, aimed at assisting residents with EV charging infrastructure.

Interest Rates:

Meanwhile, on March 21, the Bank of England (BoE) decided to maintain interest rates at 5.25% for the fifth consecutive month. Economic indicators, though, suggest a potential forthcoming decrease in rates, especially with inflation currently standing at 3.4%, its lowest point in nearly two and a half years.

European Union:

On March 12 the European Parliament approved updates to the Weights and Dimensions Directive. These updates are specifically targeted at fostering a more equitable competitive landscape between zero-emission and diesel-powered trucks and buses.

On March 18, a provisional agreement was reached between the European Parliament and Council concerning the Euro 7 deal. This agreement is designed to introduce new regulations aimed at reducing emissions from road transport across various vehicle types, including passenger cars, vans, buses, trucks, and trailers.

In overview, March witnessed a coming together of strategic dialogues, policy implementations, and collaborative initiatives aimed at advancing innovation, sustainability, and safety across the automotive industry and government sectors. As stakeholders navigate these developments, a steadfast commitment to adaptability and cooperation emerges as vital elements in driving positive change and shaping the future trajectory of mobility.