Used car dealers’ resilience and entrepreneurial spirit saw them succeed in one of the toughest years the motor trade has ever experienced.
Speaking ahead of this week’s Used Car Awards, boss of headline sponsor Black Horse Tim Smith praised car dealers for their achievements and making the best of 2020.
Smith was chatting to Used Car Awards host, Wheeler Dealer star Mike Brewer, ahead of the show’s premiere on Friday, February 5 at 6pm.
The digital awards will be broadcast on this website and will see 20 dealer gongs handed out and eight manufacturer awards.
In a video interview, Smith says: ‘It’s great to see dealers recognised for the efforts they have put in over the year. It has been really tough.
‘We have a whole range of dealers from the small and local to the big supermarkets, but as always they have shown that incredible entrepreneurial spirit over the year and come back no matter what.
‘Someone once said to me that after a nuclear war they’ll be scorpions left and car dealers and that has a lot of truth in there somewhere.
‘It’s great to see a lot of people still smiling out there and looking on the bright side which will be critical over the next year.’
The Used Car Awards are being held digitally for the first time after Covid-19 restrictions made the annual physical event impossible.
Black Horse is the headline sponsor of the event and has been a long-time partner of the used car industry’s glittering awards.
Smith added: ‘They’re really important, we love the Used Car Awards. Used car dealers are very important to us, they’re our bread and butter and account for 90 per cent of my business.
‘It’s great to come together like this. It’s been a really tough year for lots of reasons, but this is a great opportunity to recognise some of the really great work dealers have done, being innovative and making things work.
‘It’s been a year of lots of effort and hard won achievement and it will be great to recognise it all.’
Smith said Black Horse had been helping customers and dealers alike during 2020 and revealed the car finance firm had handed out 130,000 payment holidays to customers.
He said: ‘We’ve been doing a lot to support dealers. Let’s start with the customers, we’ve instigated more than 130,000 payment holidays for customers who have been struggling to maintain payments during that period.
‘For dealers, we not only lend their customers money to buy cars we lend them money to stock vehicles on their forecourts and they have repayments to make on that so we have extended those out and given holidays in that respect too.
‘That really helped their cash flows out during lockdowns and that has helped them to survive.’
Smith noted the digital acceleration of the industry and said Black Horse has rolled out an online process for signing documents during the year.
‘We’ve seen digital accelerating and customers want to use it to safely pick up cars, but dealers are also using the opportunity to promote it and get customers used to it more,’ he said.
‘People are click and collecting now like they were at supermarkets and in big numbers. It does bode well for the future when things get back to normal that we can have this good, transparent online process.’
Smith believes used cars are ‘absolutely vital’ to the industry and said it has been interesting to watch the new entrants and disruptors enter the market.
He added: ‘There’s a lot of investor interest in it. Through the Covid lockdowns, used cars have been hugely resilient and people have wanted good value, reliable cars that are environmentally friendly.
‘People are buying these sorts of cars and it’s helped keep the UK going and functioning during a time when people are less switched on to public transport.
‘The importance of used cars in 2020 was vital.’
Looking ahead to 2021, Smith told Brewer that even though it will be hard and it’s difficult to predict what impact Covid will have, he hopes there will be a rebound.
‘I think there’s a lot to look forward to,’ said Smith.
‘I keep being surprised how quickly the industry bounces back and how resilient it is. I hope for some more of that bouncebackability.’
The Used Car Awards will premiere on this website this Friday at 6pm.