Interflex MD Jim Griffin takes a look at what the plan to permanently emerge from lockdown could mean for the automotive sector.

Business owners in a wide range of industries were on tenterhooks on Monday 22nd February as Boris Johnson outlined his plans for the country to reopen. While manufacturing in the automotive industry has been able to operate throughout the latest lockdown, the industry can only start to look and feel fully back to normal when car showrooms open on April 12th as part of non-essential retail, subject to the government’s four criteria for reopening sectors of the economy being met.

Starting the engines

Some in the motor industry reacted to the date of April 12th as the earliest car showrooms can open again with dismay. This point of view is understandable when you consider that car showrooms tend to be large spaces where it is easy to practise social distancing, particularly if an appointments-only system is in operation.

However, businesses can use the next few weeks to ensure they are Covid-safe and ready to welcome customers back with confidence. Certainly, it is better to wait a few more weeks for a permanent reopening than to open too soon and once again have to deal with the effects of having to close the doors due to the reintroduction of Covid restrictions.

What will happen when the doors reopen?

Clearly, the reopening of car showrooms will be a big moment for the motor industry and will hopefully mark the end of over a year of Covid-related uncertainty. There should be some pent-up demand from members of the public who have been putting off purchasing a car until they can visit a showroom to speak to a professional and do a test drive. However, even though the doors will be open, everyone in the automotive industry is aware that as in all times of economic uncertainty, car sales will be affected as part of the economic fallout caused by the pandemic.

Resilience and optimism

As we have seen over and over again, although car sales are always among the first to be affected in times of economic uncertainty, this very fact is one of the reasons the industry is so resilient and well equipped to bounce back.

One way car salesrooms have adapted to Covid-19 is by quickly and skilfully innovating with an enhanced online experience that allows customers to view online car videos and ‘click and collect’ their new vehicle from the salesroom forecourt.

This time last year, while most people would be comfortable buying clothing, furniture and other products online, it would not have occurred to them to make a major purchase like a car without ‘trying before buying’. However, the pandemic has changed this, with more and more consumers willing to commit to their new car online after doing the necessary research at home and speaking to a dealer.

Of course, when the car dealerships reopen on April 12th, we will of course see a return to people wishing to see their new car in the flesh before signing on the dotted line. However, the necessary move to online sales has established a move away from the traditional car-purchasing process that will only stand the industry in good stead in the future.

The final piece of the puzzle

Of course, although it’s been significantly affected by Covid, it has been largely business as usual behind the scenes for the automotive manufacturing industry since it was allowed to reopen after the first national lockdown. However, the reopening of the public face of car sales will prove to be a very welcome and visible morale boost to everyone involved in the automotive sector.

To find out more about the innovative products Interflex supply including NVH and sealing solutions for vehicles including door seals, interior trim, under carpet and boot seals, please call us on 01949 861 494 or email