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What impact has this year had on the motor industry and what can dealerships expect in 2021?

What impact has this year had on the motor industry and what can dealerships expect in 2021?

20th November 2020


By Nick Squire, Operations Manager


For autoVHC’s partner dealerships and their customers, 2020 has been one of the most challenging years on record. Our economy virtually ground to a halt as the pandemic took hold, impacting people’s income and their ability to care and maintain for their vehicles. However, key elements of our national community have had to keep moving throughout, from medical providers to food logistics operators, and we’re proud to say that our partner dealerships have been doing their part to keep these key industries mobile.


A tough year for dealerships


Despite dealerships doing their utmost to keep key workers moving during the early stages of the pandemic, the virus has no doubt taken a toll on the industry as a whole. Vehicle manufacturing and the supply chain was severely disrupted, with many dealers having to drastically scale down their operations.


The UK emerged from a severe lockdown and moved into a regional tiered system in the summer, leading to a welcome flurry of business as car-owners sought to get the maintenance work and health-checks they had missed. Winter, however, is likely to be another very difficult period for everyone, and dealerships are bracing themselves as the UK faces another lockdown. At least this time the industry knows what to expect, and many dealerships will have adapted their working practices to be in line with COVID-19 guidelines so they can be ready to do business as and when measures ease.


Driving the industry forward into 2021


Despite the very real challenges facing dealerships, there may be a small silver lining in the form of electronic vehicle health checks (eVHC) and how they might push the boundaries of what’s possible in the industry. Every sector has had to adapt in difficult ways to meet new standards and expectations brought about by the pandemic. Some of these changes are undesirable and temporary, but many of them may actually enhance service in the long run and fundamentally change the way we look after our vehicles. This presents a valuable opportunity for our partner dealerships to evolve their service to not only meet COVID-19 safety standards, but excel their services on the whole. This could happen in a number of ways:


  1. Timed maintenance


Cars would traditionally be called for maintenance once they hit a certain mileage or age, but we’re likely to see that change as on-board diagnostics become more intelligent. Instead of watching the mileage counter tick up, we’re likely to see eVHC technology play a role in determining when a car should be serviced, and precisely what components will need attention. This will limit the amount of time customers need to spend at dealerships, and most likely make the upkeep of their car more affordable, spreading the cost.


  1. Making better use of downtime


The same technology can be applied to detect when cars are idle, or likely to be idle, for any length of time. If a dealership can orchestrate events so that a car can be checked while the car isn’t being used, it puts far less strain on the customer.


  1. Turning social distancing into an advantage


It’s likely that we’re going to have to live with the pandemic and effects for some time, and social distancing is going to become part of the ‘new normal’ we’re all slowly adapting to. We’ve seen some of our partner dealerships in the US turn this to their advantage, marketing ‘drop-off’ services rather than the typical ‘while you wait’ style service we’re all used to. This limits personal contact, and all that’s required is an exchange of keys.


  1. Picture and video servicing


Not only does eVHC make servicing easier on the whole, but it makes reporting a lot more interactive. Diagnostic videos can be shared with the customer to highlight what work is needed, aiding aftersales teams as they work to retain customers. It will also help particularly busy dealerships deliver in-depth reports to customers more efficiently, freeing up valuable labour time to take on more jobs.


  1. Spreading the cost


The future will be more of a digital journey for customers, becoming less involved with people and more with process driven technology, increasing convenience and flexibility for customers. Payment gateways will become more popular, providing customers with affordable payment options and increasing customer retention. At autoVHC we have recognised this and give customers the ability through our network of specialist partners to pay by card through payment gateways or spread the cost through 0% three to four month finance options.


A return to normal beyond 2021?


While we would all like things to get back to normal, the pandemic has acted as a catalyst for technologies that were probably already on their way. An effective eVHC platform will be critical when it comes to maintaining social distancing through diagnostic checks and services. We’re likely to see this trend toward remote monitoring and ‘control centres’ continue, making consumers feel more in-tune with their vehicles and helping dealerships and garages to tackle problems as they arise, or even prevent problems from occurring in the first place.


Tech adoption is aiding with social distancing in all sectors, and vehicle servicing is no different. It may not be ‘business as usual’ for some time yet, but that doesn’t mean dealerships can’t turn the tide and lead the way in terms of innovation as we head into the next decade.