What will the impact of COVID-19 have on the electric vehicle market, and how does it affect the UK motoring industry?
The usual business of motoring news and information seems to pale into insignificance in light of world events. We are facing a global pandemic of a scale which has not been seen in generations and, even as I write, there is a state of emergency in America and closed borders across many European countries.
In the UK we have had the first budget announcements for many months, and whereas we may have expected announcements relating to zero emission motoring, instead funds were being directed to the national health service. As we had previously written, there are massive impacts on the supply chain, with many factories in China and across the world closed, or facing reduced production ability because of the virus and its effects. This has already manifested itself with Tesla and the roll out of vehicles in China where new Model 3 vehicles were found to have an older processor installed which had been used in earlier vehicles as there were issues with supply of microprocessors due to corona virus.
However, we have not as yet encountered the issues seen in countries such as Italy where there has been a total shutdown with almost the whole population in isolation and shops and offices closed for periods of time. If we are to believe the Government we are not at this level and the delaying efforts to ‘squash the sombrero’, as the Prime Minister terms the delay in the peak of the corona virus impact, will not require similar action.
We are standing on the brink of something new. It is unclear what could happen both in the UK and worldwide, however it is clear the virus will have a deep and serious impact on our economy and the population.
It has been said the corona virus will bankrupt more people than it will kill. Perhaps this is somewhat reassuring in terms of human life, however it does mean that we will lose traction on the implementation of the proposed phasing out of petrol and diesel vehicles. This may still seem a long time off, however, with the amount of work required to develop the required infrastructure and the effort required to persuade the driving public to change to zero emissions potentially losing a year or more could impact greatly on the Government’s targets for reducing emissions from motoring.
There is a risk that we could see a time shortly when the majority of schools will be closed and this could have a major impact on workplaces with individuals either needing to manage childcare or placing themselves in isolation.
So, does this mean the industry will have to place itself on hiatus until the imminent risk has passed? I think the opposite may be true.
This may seem like a ridiculous statement, however, we face a time when many people will be out of work for at least one week, maybe more. Once these individuals have exhausted the options on Netflix, there is the opportunity for them to look at new vehicles.
As an industry, we need to take this opportunity and direct our collective efforts to capture the imagination of the public. It may be there will be a time when individuals may not be able to leave their homes freely. However, with most motor manufacturers offering online vehicle purchase and people having time on their hands, I can foresee many more people reviewing new vehicles and I predict there may even be a spike in purchases.
The corona virus may present the electric vehicle industry with one of its greatest opportunities. For the first time we have the ability to communicate with a truly captive audience who are potentially bored and open to spend time discovering and understanding a new way to drive.
The clever marketing teams will be looking at the numbers of people who have the holy trinity of free time on their hands, a fast internet connection and disposable income. We must capitalise on the opportunity to capture hearts and change minds about zero emissions motoring.
People need to be convinced, however, this is not a hard sell. Electric vehicles offer so many advantages from speed and comfort to the massive cost benefits associated with the running and maintenance costs and the absence of road tax and congestion charges.
There will be those who will question selling during a pandemic, however I am not trying to gouge prices for hand sanitiser or surgical masks, my intention is to show that we, as an industry, could either sink or swim during this difficult time. We can’t cure corona virus, however if we can encourage zero emission motoring we could certainly support improved health in the case of another similar pandemic. We have a chance to capture a market share and keep our businesses and the supply chain running, it’s something we simply must do.