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Car Dealer Live: Cox Automotive president Martin Forbes on why govt support for car dealers is needed now

Time 10 months ago

Cox Automotive president Martin Forbes believes the government will need to step in and provide further support to the car industry.

In a wide-ranging exclusive interview with Car Dealer – which you can watch in full above – the leader of Manheim, Modix, NextGear Capital and Dealer Auction calls on ministers to back the car industry.

Forbes was previously the CEO of Cox Automotive UK, but in May became president at Cox Automotive where he now looks after the UK, Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil business. 

Speaking to Car Dealer ahead of the company’s Insight Report 2020, which launches today, he also gives his views on:

  • The future for online car sales
  • The damage Brexit will do to the industry
  • When Manheim Auction halls may open again
  • And his prediction for new and used car sales in 2021

Forbes believes a cut in VAT or scrappage scheme should be considered to incentivise sales as car dealers face a difficult W-shaped recession and further lockdowns.

He said: ‘My plea to the government would be to sit down with the various governing bodies of the automotive industry. 

‘Please sit down and listen carefully to some of the big leaders of the retailers in the marketplace.

‘Look at the contribution we bring, as a business, to the UK economy itself and we know £22.5bn in revenue has been lost this year through to Covid.

‘I think we need to be wary that we will start to see – and we are already starting to see it – a slowdown in activity from retail and a slowdown of activity in relation to wholesale.

‘We need to be careful about what that looks like for Q1.’

He said it will be a difficult argument to make with the government when many dealers have enjoyed bumper sales months after the first lockdown eased – but he said the industry is not out of the woods yet.

And he added that he finds it hard to understand why garden centres and DIY stores have been allowed to stay open when car showrooms have had to close.

He added: ‘I don’t understand how the government cannot look at the automotive industry and understand that they’re not helping them. 

‘It drives an enormous amount of employment and contributions to GDP in this marketplace and it does need help and assistance.

‘I think it’s up to bodies like the SMMT and others to actually drive that support and I think if they don’t do it they will be missing a trick and it will hurt the automotive industry and it will hurt the wider economy.’


On Brexit, Forbes says he is ‘forever hopeful’ a deal can be struck.

He added: ‘I think if we get this wrong it will have a big, dramatic effect on the sale of new cars.

‘I have to say that I think we will get some elements of a deal, but I still think it will have somewhat of an impact on this marketplace.’

Cox Automotive predicts growth in new car sales next year in its report and a normalisation of the used car market.

Forbes said: ‘As we ride the wave of Q1 and as we come out of that, we are predicting that if we get this right, car sales will increase. 

‘I think we will see more activity in used car transactions.

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‘Coming out of Q1 and heading into the spring, if we can get it right and get confidence levels back up, 2021 could be a great year.

‘We just need to ride this year out, be careful in Q1 and don’t get carried away with ourselves. I think if we’re careful on that we can have a great year.’

The Cox Automotive Market Insight Report for 2020 has been launched today. View it here.

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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