The end of furlough in October, rising unemployment and Brexit on the horizon have all been giving dealers the jitters, and Auto Express editor-in-chief Steve Fowler believes the industry is most definitely experiencing a heyday at the moment.
Appearing on Car Dealer Live, he told host James Baggott: ‘There is no doubt that there are troubled times ahead. Brexit has been off the agenda really for the past few months. We’ve had far more important things to worry about. Now that is a big concern for manufacturers, dealers and consumers.
‘The end of furlough, when people start to realise more and more people are losing their jobs, then that also is a worry, so there are definitely challenging times ahead, but the manufacturers and the dealers need to make sure they’re in the best shape possible to ride what could be fairly choppy waters over the coming months.’
But he also told how an industry insider had made the arguably controversial and contentious claim to him that the people most likely to lose their jobs weren’t particularly those who’d be buying new cars anyway, so there may not be as big an impact on the market as feared.
‘It’s a pretty tricky thing to say in my book, but it’s another reason why he felt fairly buoyant around the rest of the year.’
Looking further ahead to 2030, which is when the government is now considering bringing in a ban on new petrol and diesel cars, as reported by Car Dealer, Baggott asked Fowler if he thought the industry was ready for that change so soon.
‘That’s a really interesting one,’ he replied. ‘And the thing we always want from government and we don’t seem to be getting on any form is clarity. So is it 2035? Is it 2032? Could it be 2030?
‘Now 2030 is going to be a real stretch for the industry. It’s only 10 years away.
‘Ultimately, we know the way the market is going. We also know, and I firmly believe, there’s not a person buying a new car today for whom the thought of an electric vehicle doesn’t flash across their mind.
‘They might think “Not yet. I’ll come back to that”, but it does mean that next time it’ll be more likely that they will go electric.
‘So people are aware of the move that needs to take place to electrification, the manufacturers are well aware of that, they’re increasingly aware of the need to sell more electric cars to get their average CO2 levels down.
‘But the complete ban of vehicles with internal combustion engines by 2030 or certainly cars is going to be really, really tough to meet.
‘But then, having said that, this is the most fantastic of industries – the innovation and the sheer cleverness of the people involved. It’s best when it has its back to the wall and when it’s challenged, and I’ve got no doubt that it would rise to that challenge, but it’s going to be difficult.’
Watch the interview in full – in which among the other topics Fowler also discusses the withdrawal of brands from Europe and whether he thinks a scrappage scheme is likely – by clicking on the main image.