Editor's note

Cautious optimism as dealerships reopen

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Philip Nothard, Insight and Strategy Director,
Cox Automotive.

Welcome to AutoFocus, our new quarterly digital magazine for the automotive sector. 

With so much change and uncertainty at the moment, there can be a daunting amount of content out there for automotive professionals to keep on top of. With AutoFocus, we aim to make it easy for you to be in the know by sharing a fresh perspective on only the most important topics. We will draw on our global experience to provide relevant and timely insight.

To say the start of 2021 was tricky would be an understatement. No sooner had dealerships stocked up on hand sanitiser, distributed masks to their teams and installed plastic screens than they were closing their doors once again for the latest lockdown. The challenges of remote selling are many, but retailers have adapted remarkably well, and most have been able to adapt their operations to support the growing consumer acceptance of online retailing and click-and-collect services.

Still, sales are understandably down on their pre-pandemic levels, so the recent reopening of physical showrooms in Scotland on 5th April, and today in England (12th April) should invigorate a market that’s been held back for too many months. There is a lot of ground to catch up on, but still many months left for the automotive sector to capitalise.

"With AutoFocus, our aim is to make it easy for you to be in the know by sharing a fresh perspective on only the most important topics and drawing on our global experience to provide relevant and timely insight that can only be found here."

While dealers are undeniably raring to go, it’s still important to keep in mind that we’re not out of the woods yet. Certain restrictions and social distancing measures are still in place for now and it remains to be seen if new and used car supply can match demand – that’s if consumer demand even returns; we won’t know what that will look like for some months still.

To help give context to the big issues the industry faces, in this issue, we share the latest Cox Automotive new and used car forecasts for 2021 and a brand-new detailed forecast for Q2. We also share the results from our recent dealer and consumer surveys, and a feature from the NFDA provides an overview of the franchised dealer landscape. While we don’t touch on it in this issue, the new and used LCV market is facing its own unique set of opportunities and challenges, so keep an out for future issues of AutoFocus where we will share the latest LCV market intel.

In this issue, we also look at the trends that were here before Covid-19 such as the electric vehicle revolution. With successful vaccine rollouts happening globally, the climate conversation is at the top of the agenda once more so make sure to read our dedicated EV section.

And don’t forget the mergers and acquisitions landscape. For years we have seen a growth in the number of these deals taking place, and if we use learnings from previous recessions then the post-pandemic market could provide fertile grounds for even more. I thank Grant Thornton UK LLP for their input on this topic.

With so many questions unanswered, I hope that this magazine provides some context to the biggest challenges you are facing right now. Enjoy the issue.

"Cox Automotive are thrilled to launch the first issue of AutoFocus, yet another example of our commitment to support our customers through challenging and uncertain times. Insight is at the heart of what we do, and we want to share our wealth of knowledge with our customers so they too can navigate a complex and often confusing market."

James Leese, Chief Customer Officer, Cox Automotive Europe


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