The Coronavirus pandemic has had global impact, with many industries, including the motor industry, forced to scale back activity significantly in order to allow social distancing and self-isolation.

Across the workforce, supply chain and retail market, the first lockdown saw activity grind to a halt and after a full year of COVID-19 headlines the UK manufacturing industry as a whole is only just starting to reopen fully.

Despite the positive momentum at present, the motor industry is still suffering from supply chain disruption. Most recently, Jaguar Land Rover were forced to halt production due to a short supply of microchips caused by COVID-19 in Taiwan and South Korea.

For a truly global sector with very high demand for materials and components, any reduction in output by suppliers can cause an interruption to manufacturing. As the consumer market demand returns post-COVID, this is a challenge manufacturers will need to navigate.

How is the motor industry reopening?

Different parts of the motor trade are taking different measures to reopen safely as the UK lockdown conditions continue to ease.

Some examples of this include:

  • Citroen dealerships restricting test drives to one person (or members of the same household) and continuing Click & Collect services
  • Volvo offering online booking of its Test Drive+ service and social distancing/masks in dealerships
  • Jaguar Land Rover developing future air filtration for its vehicles that reduces viruses and bacteria by 97%

The innovative approach taken across the industry is not only rising to the challenges of COVID-19 as the pandemic enters its later stages, but is identifying opportunities to cater for motorists’ safety and hygiene concerns in the future too.

Will motorist demand bounce back?

There are plenty of good reasons to expect significant demand from motorists in the coming months, not least as those who have stayed home for the past 12 months look for a vehicle that can allow them to enjoy their newly granted freedom.

A survey by Motorpoint published in April 2021 found three quarters of drivers had delayed buying a new car until physical dealerships were able to reopen, which happened on April 12th for those in England.

Despite the vaccination programme, people in the UK are reluctant to return to crowded public transport. YourParkingSpace found 53% of people are less likely to use public transport and two fifths are more likely to drive instead.

The survey by YourParkingSpace also revealed that one in ten people are considering replacing their old car or even buying a spare set of wheels in light of the pandemic.

How the pandemic will end for the motor industry

It’s been a difficult year for everybody, but the momentum is finally heading in the right direction, as the motor industry is able to ramp up production and reopen dealerships to cater for those customers who have been putting off test drives and purchases.

New technologies, from online booking of test drives and virtual vehicle viewings, to air purification built into the next generation of cars, are all helping the sector to adapt and even capitalise in an ethically sound way on some of the concerns surrounding Coronavirus.

We’re not out of the woods yet – the UK vaccination campaign is continuing at pace, but the reliance on a complex global supply chain for components like semiconductors means the motor industry will not be protected fully until all countries come through their localised epidemics.

But with consumer sentiment towards private vehicles looking extremely positive amid continuing concerns about public transport, it’s likely the second half of 2021 will see a surge in car sales that should help the market to bounce back very strongly indeed.