Sue Corkin, Chris Wiseman, centre, and Robin Luscombe at Car Dealer Live 2024Sue Corkin, Chris Wiseman, centre, and Robin Luscombe at Car Dealer Live 2024

CDL 2024

UK’s electric vehicle market ‘could be a bloodbath’ this year, warns Wessex Garages boss

  • Wessex Garages MD Chris Wiseman was part of franchised dealer panel at Car Dealer Live 2024
  • Dealership recently added Chinese EV brand Ora to portfolio
  • But he warned how tariffs and volume could wreak havoc in EV market

Time 12:33 pm, March 7, 2024

The EV market in the UK could become a ‘bloodbath’ during 2024, according to one of the speakers at Car Dealer Live today.

The warning came from Chris Wiseman, managing director of Wessex Garages, which has recently added the Chinese EV brand Ora to the portfolio of manufacturers it represents.

Wiseman was one of three franchised dealer group representatives to be interviewed on stage during one of this morning’s panel discussions. He was joined by Sue Corkin, group operations director at Chorley Group, and Robin Luscombe, group MD of Luscombe Motors.

The subject of electrification was a key talking point at the event, headline-partnered by Auto Trader, with Wiseman explaining the thinking behind his company’s decision to work with Ora. Wessex sells the brand’s cars in Bristol and provides servicing facilities in Gloucester and Cardiff.

He said: ‘I like to be the first with something sometimes. When we looked at Ora originally, I had low expectations of what the quality would be like. Chinese brands, in the early days, weren’t particularly well thought of in terms of European-spec cars.

‘However, I was staggered by the build quality – it’s absolutely superb.

‘I just thought there was a place for the brand at Wessex Garages – we had an opportunity to put it into one of our existing showrooms and the cost of entry was minimal.

‘The return looked good in terms of what we needed to do to break even – and we have exceeded that significantly.

’There has been great uptake from the fleet sector, but a slower uptake in retail, if I’m honest.’

Wiseman added: ‘When you look at the volume aspirations, that’s the scary bit for me. There’s got to be volume. If you haven’t got volume, you haven’t got a return on investment because there’s no aftersales coming through.’

He also stressed that the pricing of EVs was a key factor, saying: ‘We can talk about the infrastructure, we can talk about home chargers and costs and everything else but it’s going to be driven by cost of entry [for the consumer].

‘Chinese brands are well placed to come into the UK with a very competitive pricing message. I don’t think they are at the moment because they are pricing to a basket of cars that currently exists here.

‘If that model changes and they want to flick the switch and talk about volume, the danger is that the OEMs in this country will not have the margins in their cars to be able to compete.

’Then there’s the tariff situation to consider and whether that comes into play – so there could be a bloodbath this year on EVs.’

You can keep up to date with everything going on at Car Dealer Live 2024 by following our live blog from the auditorium.

Earlier today, Peter Vardy told the event at the British Motor Museum how cheap Chinese EVs and plummeting margins influenced his change in business model.

You can watch all the sessions from Car Dealer Live, which is headline-partnered by Auto Trader, as they happen by purchasing a streaming ticket now.

Alternatively, you can buy tickets to watch back the full event from tomorrow (Mar 8).

Pictured at top with Car Dealer editor-in-chief James Baggott, left, at Car Dealer Live 2024 are Sue Corkin, Chris Wiseman, centre, and Robin Luscombe

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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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