Ford of Britain boss Andy Barratt has revealed it actively prevented dealers registering cars in March – and thinks no one should be delivering cars during the lockdown.
Usually, in what would be the busiest month of the year for car sales with the plate change, Ford stopped dealers registering vehicles to preserve their cash reserves.
Barratt – speaking on our Car Dealer Live broadcast today (April 14) – said the fact Ford was a global brand meant the manufacturer could learn from the experiences in China, Spain and Italy.
He said: ‘We could see this coming to the UK – it was rolling across Europe. We took a decision in mid-March, firstly to get our teams to work from home, and we took the decision with the dealers to do a few things too.
‘One, was to preserve cash at all costs.
‘Cash is king and liquidity for the dealers is everything. We effectively stopped them registering vehicles in March. If you look at the way Ford registers vehicles in a big month, they’re always back-end loaded.
‘Probably two thirds of our business comes in the last 10 days as deliveries arrive and dealers scramble to hit targets.
‘We didn’t have that close, we had a very modest number and market share, but that was deliberate in terms of preserving cash for the dealers.’
[Watch highlights of what Andy Barratt said here, and the full interview at the end of this post]
He explained that they had cut all programmes until later in the year and they have taken cut as many costs as they can so that dealers aren’t accruing any.
He stressed: ‘All dealers need to focus on is keeping their people safe, keeping their business viable and the revenue they need on return to keep those things going.’
Barratt confirmed that he believes the furlough payments are going to be ‘a pinch point’ too as HMRC is likely to struggle with the huge amounts of cash it needs to pay back into businesses.
‘We’ve been wargaming with all dealers what happens if that furlough money doesn’t arrive before June,’ he said.
‘We know what we need to do to support them if it doesn’t.’
His advice for all dealers is to ‘plan for that cash not arriving before June and go to your OEM today’ if you need help.
Barratt said that Ford had sold some cars through lockdown but would not be delivering them.
He said: ‘We have sold quite a few vehicles through the lockdown and we’ve had quite a few fleet enquiries. But lockdown is lockdown. If someone desperately wants a new car we will give them a courtesy car.
‘Reputations will be won and lost through the lockdown and consumers have incredibly long memories. The population as a whole are so concerned with what’s going on that if we’re seen to be showing little regard for what is something in everyone’s interest, then shame on us.’
Watch the full Car Dealer Live interview below – and click here for more interviews like this