As we stand here on the cusp of 2021, we look back on a year of exceptional challenge for the industry. The impact of this year’s pandemic on new and used car sales may have grabbed the 2020 headlines, but COVID-19 has also accelerated several existing trends. With electric new vehicle sales now overtaking diesel sales, the UK Government has brought forward the end of the internal combustion engine. All these challenges, plus - at the time of writing - continued uncertainty about the impact of Brexit, makes this a year like no other we have faced as an industry. 

However, out of challenge comes  opportunity for positive transformation with  plenty of signs of long term hope and business success. Digitisation projects have been accelerated; vehicle ownership and driving patterns have been questioned, presenting opportunities for alternative fuels; manufacturers and dealers have re-evaluated their relationships with each other and the journey they present to the consumer, offering up innovative partnerships which provide value to everyone involved. 

We now look forward to a period which is likely to see further significant change in both the wholesale and retail used car markets against a background of lower new and used vehicle sales. It is clear businesses throughout the automotive supply chain have decisions to make about how they structure their organisations to embrace the developments yet to come. 

At Cox Automotive, we have the benefit of being able to take a well-rounded view, comprising outlooks from the UK, Europe and further afield. With products and solutions throughout every stage of the automotive life cycle, our customers include independent dealers, franchise dealers, leasing companies, fleets, and manufacturers. 

As the world’s leading automotive services company, we can draw upon insight and expertise from across the globe. We know things are changing quickly - the move towards digital is accelerating and technological advances will play an increasingly important role. 

At Cox Automotive, we continue our ambitious growth plans, investing to build our capability, scale and scope across physical and digital services to meet the changing needs of the automotive marketplace. Our businesses are organised around our customers’ core needs across vehicle solutions, remarketing, funding, and retail. We continue to evolve and develop our offer in partnership and collaboration with customers

The shift towards a more digitised retail model, accelerated but not prompted by COVID-19, provides opportunities for organisations across the automotive supply chain. We work to complement and not compete with our customers, helping them to adapt and grow in the changing retail environment. Specifically, we continue to build scale in the wholesale market, act as market matchmaker, and enable our customers’ retail sales through the development of the best products and services to remove friction from the buying and selling process. 

As we look to the future, it is clear the automotive sector will need to undergo further change to respond to evolving consumer behaviours. Mainstream adoption of full electric models will require a different way of thinking when it comes to aftersales, repair and remarketing. The ongoing developments in the subscription economy will require manufacturers and dealers to be a little more creative in their customer relationship management. And everyone will need to be agile to respond to the political, economic and cultural shifts which continue to impact markets worldwide.  

Like all businesses this year we have had to adapt our working practices, but we always strive to do the right thing for our team members and customers. While acknowledging this hasn’t been the easiest of years for anyone in automotive, we look forward to entering 2021 with a renewed focus, refreshed approach and even stronger commitment to supporting our customers and partners at all stages of the supply chain. 

As we head into a new year, I’d like to extend my thanks and appreciation to everyone in the extended Cox Automotive family. I am humbled every day by the passion, commitment and innovation shown by our team members, suppliers, customers, and sister businesses. Together, we will embrace the opportunities that the automotive industry of 2021 and beyond has to offer. 

Thank you.

Martin Forbes

President, Cox Automotive International