Car Dealer Live

Car Dealer Live 7: Imperial Car Supermarkets’ Neil Smith, NFDA’s Stephen Latham and ICDP’s Steve Young


Time 3:25 pm, April 1, 2020

Imperial Car Supermarkets operations director Neil Smith and representatives from the NFDA and ICDP joined Car Dealer Live today.

Smith – who recently set up a Linked group encouraging dealers and industry leaders to share best practice during this torrid time – answered Car Dealer Magazine’s questions about how his firm has dealt with the crisis.

Joining him were Stephen Latham, head of operations at the National Franchised Dealers’ Association (NFDA), which helps represents the interests of motor industry operators here.

And Steve Young, managing director of automotive research experts the ICDP, provided insight into the global picture the pandemic has created for the automotive industry.

You can watch the broadcast above.

Smith commented that the crisis had ‘massively accelerated’ people’s views and focused businesses’ minds on online sales as well as home deliveries, and how it could be made faster. He added that the online sector now was ‘very much a battlefield’, as well as ‘an arms race’ as regards online fulfilment tools. And he pointed out that there had been a great deal of co-operation with pre-coronavirus competitors.

Asked by interviewer Rebecca Chaplin if the car industry would ever be the same again, his answer was an emphatic ‘100 per cent no’.

Latham told how NFDA’s legal team were scrutinising all the new legislation to bring clarity to confusion, and was feeding it out to members daily, an example being technicians not being considered by police to be key workers when in fact they are. The organisation has now created a letter that technicians can produce if challenged.

Looking at the global picture, Young said that on a positive note things were now picking up quite quickly for large groups in China, where the pandemic started. Some smaller dealerships, however, were lagging because they hadn’t taken the mandated protective measures for staff and customers, so hadn’t been allowed to reopen.  As such, he said that dealers here needed to think about being prepared for their return to work.

Looking ahead, Latham predicted a huge demand for aftersales work because of people delaying services and repairs, with a similar knock-on effect for MOTs because of the six-month exemption, meaning it was ‘desperately important’ to retain skilled staff.

Young said the ICDP believed the future was likely to see fewer dealerships as we know them today, with more of an emphasis on leasing and manufacturers being more involved in that.

Other topics covered included the lobbying of HMRC to have commission included in the furloughed pay, as well as new vehicle supply issues.

Smith is encouraging dealers and industry peers to join his LinkedIn group, which he has set up with Armchair Marketing.

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Car Dealer has been covering the motor trade since 2008 as both a print and digital publication. In 2020 the title went fully digital and now provides daily motoring updates on this website for the car industry. A digital magazine is published once a month.

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