Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said,

“The automotive industry understands the priority must be to get the virus under control, relieving pressure on hospitals and protecting society at large. Nevertheless, the fact that retail showrooms must remain closed until April at least, is deeply disappointing given these facilities are Covid-secure, large premises with low footfall and able to operate on an appointment-only basis.

“Whilst “click and collect” can continue, this does not replace the showroom experience on which so many retail customers depend, especially in the all-important March plate change month that represents 1 in 5 of annual new car registrations. Unfortunately, the continuing decline in retail business will translate into reduced production volumes as well as giving rise to other operational issues. We look to Government to work with the sector to provide ongoing support and clarity so the industry can plan its re-opening and recovery.”

Steve Nash, CEO of the Institute of the Motor Industry responds to the Government’s four stage roadmap to recovery:

“It is welcome news that education, quite rightly, is given priority in being the first part of society to come out of lockdown and we believe this will be tremendously welcome news for the Further Education colleges and other approved training centres that support automotive apprenticeships.

“The sector has seen apprenticeship starts drop massively in the last 12 months. The first quarter of the 2020/21 academic year saw a 63% drop compared to the same period for 2019/20. And whilst it is inevitable that some employers may be pausing their recruitment plans, including bringing on new apprentices, we also believe the restrictions on education have been a deterrent for those considering an apprenticeship in automotive where so much of the learning needs to be hands-on.

“The last year has seen a tremendous shift to e-learning, which the IMI has supported with numerous online modules but we know that FE colleges and other IMI approved training centres are desperate to get students back into the live classroom. They know how to do this safely and with the right level of hygiene procedures and social distancing so we really hope that 8th March will see doors reopening and a new level of engagement from potential students.”