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Six in ten car dealers call for prolonged support with grants and loans from Government

15 May 2020


New research from Close Brothers Motor Finance reveals the priorities across the motor industry as they call for further Government support in light of Covid-19. The sector has been hit particularly hard by the UK lockdown, with new car sales plunging 97% year-on-year in April and recovery set to be a difficult road ahead. 

A month after the UK lockdown began, 55% of dealers confirmed that they’d taken out more finance to stay afloat. Businesses were struggling, with a huge impact on employees; 47% of dealers had furloughed their staff, and 43% laid them off entirely. Half of dealers (49%) reported issues sourcing stock. 

It’s clear too that dealers are spending a lot of time offering advice to customers. Half (49%) had dealt with customers unclear about whether to/ how to buy a car during lockdown, and a quarter (25%) with customers unclear about how to collect a car they had already ordered/ agreed to purchase. 

Looking to the solution, dealers are most keen to see prolonged support with grants and loans from the government, with 61% saying this would aid recovery. 53% would like to see more support for car manufacturers, and 47% are keen for further support with employee salaries. 

Beyond the direct impact of Covid-19, wider regulatory hurdles persist. 47% of dealers want to see a reduction on import tariffs, and 43% are calling for changes to the timeline on the diesel/ petrol ban. In February, the ban on petrol and diesel cars was brought forward from 2040 to 2035, and dealers expressed concern at the time that the ambition was overly challenging without more investment in infrastructure and education. 

Dealer calls to the Government as the UK recovers from the impact of Covid-19 

dealer research table

There are some silver linings for the future too. 45% of dealers reported increased social media interest as consumer demand shifted online, and a 31% have taken lockdown as an opportunity to build up the online presence of their dealership to support current and future sales. Almost one in five (18%) have introduced a delivery service in order to safely meet the continued demand.  

Sean Kemple, Director of Sales at Close Brothers Motor Finance said: “Covid-19 has brought the UK economy to its knees, and with most showrooms and forecourts closed the motor industry has been hit hard. Government has already introduced a number of measures including cuts to business rates, the furlough scheme, and frozen fuel duties, but the environment remains undeniably difficult. 

“It’s really positive to see some UK car manufacturers safely returning to work, but with social distancing measures in place the speed of production will be severely limited. This, combined with damaged consumer confidence, means the future is uncertain. Dealers are working hard to find ways to support their staff and their customers, and as the backbone of the car industry, it’s vital that they are properly supported.”  

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