COVID-19: Automotive Business Support

Find all the latest support for automotive businesses from SMMT on COVID-19 including:

  • Latest updates
  • Government support and funding
  • Advice and guidance
  • Webinars

Urgent need to secure the future of bus and coach sector

21 May 2020

Of all the sectors in the UK, public transport has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 outbreak. Bus and coach ridership is down 90% and many operators have stood their vehicles against a wall. Government support via the Job Retention Scheme and additional industry funding have been very welcome and have helped mitigate some of the damage, but most operators are grappling with significant losses during lockdown and beyond.

Once we are past the current crisis we believe advancements in automotive technology will transform the future of mobility, with the role of buses and coaches becoming increasingly important. However, in order to survive and have the confidence to invest in new technology, the industry needs clarity. To achieve this, we need a National Strategy, created with input from manufacturers and operators, as has been promised by the government.

UK bus operators and manufacturers were very pleased by the Prime Minister’s February pledge of a £5 billion fund for investment buses and cycle links during this Parliament, crucially in ultra-low and zero emission buses and bus priority measures. However, to overcome the immediate crisis and to begin work preparing for the future, we would like to see this pledge either partly or wholly brought forward into this year.

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Growth in UK bus and coach market suspended at 15.8%, as March lockdown measures halt new orders

18 May 2020

  • Bus and coach registrations up 15.8% in Q1 with 1,403 units joining UK roads.
  • Minibus demand drives overall increase, as registrations more than double to 941.
  • Overall growth comes off back of particularly weak first quarter in 2019.

UK new bus and coach registrations rose 15.8% in the first quarter of 2020, with demand rising to 1,403 units, according to figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). The growth comes off the back of a particularly weak first quarter in 2019, when registrations fell by almost a third (-32.8%).

The growth in the quarter could have been even stronger, with solid demand in the first two months, however, coronavirus lockdown measures introduced partway through March held back registrations in the month, up 3.5%, or only 23 units more than this time last year. Overall, quarterly growth was driven by minibus registrations, which were up 106.8% to 941 units, while the market for single-deck and double-deck buses was down -21.3% and -61.2% respectively.

Demand for buses and coaches fell significantly in Scotland, down -44.7% to 146 units, whereas England saw a boost of 29.3% to 1,146 vehicles, where the South East (which includes Greater London) remains the most popular region in the UK for bus and coach registrations, with 422 units registered, up 10.5% on last year.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said,

The boost in bus and coach registrations at the start of the year was near erased by lockdown measures introduced in March. As we expect this trend to continue into the second quarter, manufacturers and the wider sector are rightly concerned with what happens next. Bus operators are working tirelessly to provide safe and essential transport services for those on the frontline of the pandemic, and this needs to continue as the nation starts to exit lockdown. To help safeguard the future of the industry, we need the funding promised earlier in the year to be made available now, and a clear and comprehensive plan for the sector that boosts operator confidence and thereby encourages fleet renewal.

British HGV market down -22.5% in Q1 2020

18 May 2020

  • New UK heavy goods vehicle market declines, down -22.5% on the same quarter last year.
  • Markets for both rigid and artic trucks in decline, with a total 9,193 vehicles joining UK roads.
  • Demand in double digit decline across all segments, with the exception of refuse disposal and curtain sided vehicles, up 24.4% and 1.2% respectively.



The UK’s new heavy goods vehicle (HGV) market fell -22.5% in the first quarter of 2020, with 9,193 units registered, according to figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Fluctuations in the sector’s naturally long fleet renewal cycle, together with lockdown measures introduced partway through March affected HGV registrations, rounding off the first three months of the year down some 2,666 units.

Registrations of rigid trucks fell -12.0, driven by a double-digit percentage decline in the >16T truck segment, while trucks weighing >6-16T saw a lesser -5.8% fall in registrations. Meanwhile, demand for articulated heavy trucks declined by more than a third, down -34.5% as 3,613 vehicles joined UK roads.

While tractors continue to make up the majority of HGV registrations with more than 3,500 vehicles registered, nearly all segments saw double-digit declines in the first quarter of the year. Elsewhere, refuse disposal and curtain sided vehicles experienced increased demand, up 24.4% and 1.2% respectively, likely due to ramped up essential services such as rubbish collection and supermarket and warehouse deliveries amid a nationwide pandemic.

The only nation to see an increase in demand during the quarter was Wales, where registrations of heavy goods vehicles were up by over a fifth, growing 20.8% to 354 units. Across the rest of the country, fewer HGVs joined roads, with England and Northern Ireland experiencing -24.9% and -20.5% declines respectively.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said,

While fluctuating fleet buying cycles can have a pronounced effect on this market, heavy goods manufacturers have had to adjust business practices during lockdown period just like any other business. As we prepare for a cross-industry restart, we need to restore operator confidence to boost fleet renewal, in order to get more of the latest high-tech, low emission vehicles onto our roads.

What makes a successful fleet manager?

21 May 2020

What makes a successful fleet manager?

The transport sector is constantly looking for greater efficiency, cleaner operations and reduced expenditure and, for fleet managers who face these challenges every day, finding those solutions can never be easy.

Three fleet managers, in a series of interviews with Goodyear, describe their biggest successes and detail what advice they would give to new fleet managers or those who are new to the industry.

What are the biggest challenges fleet managers face?

According to Lee Downer, Fleet Manager at TJ Transport, the biggest challenge in terms of goods and services is getting value for money – a test that many fleet managers face. However, he has learnt to live by the mantra that “the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

He also said that working in such a rapidly evolving industry can undoubtedly come with challenges, but it’s important to be able to embrace change and new developments in technology including solutions such as Goodyear Total Mobility which provides access to TruckForce – a 24/7 commercial support network that can carry out proactive maintenance and support fleets when tyre-related breakdowns occur.

Paul Rymer, Fleet Manager at ECM (Vehicle Delivery Service) LTD, said, “Working closely with all the manufacturers, sharing information and implementing new technologies and innovations to make sure we are getting the best from every product is vital.”

As an Engineering Fleet Manager, Gary Archer from PD Ports feels that “keeping up with legislation and compliance” is the most challenging part of being a fleet manager, while Rymer said, “dealing with day-to-day problems such as breakdowns and serious incidents”, was top of his list.

What makes a successful fleet manager?

Downer believes that what makes a successful fleet manager is building a sense of equality – “from the directors to the drivers” – which is something he frequently reminds his team of. Making them feel valued and part of a unit is something that will pay off, adding that, “It’s amazing how much more productive they become when you do.”

But it’s not just about having a strong relationship with drivers. Downer also believes that “having a good rapport with service providers is key to getting a good service”, and can make life much easier, whether it be by making regular contact or finding time for workshop visits or building strong relationships with external supporters.

He says that even something as simple as taking the odd box of cakes along can help to establish a “firm, but friendly” working relationship. “It’s the team ethos that makes the success,” he added.

Rymer agrees that above all else, you have to be supportive of the whole team. In his 25 years’ experience, he has seen many changes within the industry, but credits keeping up with ECM’s ever-expanding fleet and workforce as one of his biggest successes.

What advice would you give to new fleet managers?

“As a fleet manager, it’s important for respect to be earnt, not commanded,” according to Downer. He also stressed that manners play a big part, with simple things like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ going a long way.

When he was a young lorry driver himself, Downer recalls being asked, just as he was finishing his day, if he could take a lorry back out for just “one quick job”. Despite the horrible weather, he duly obliged, but always remembers his Transport Manager coming out in the pouring rain to say thanks and tell him that he appreciated his help. He says it is something he has never forgotten to this day.

Making your staff feel fulfilled is an important part of managing a team. Downer says: “Members of a team – drivers in particular – should always be listened to because they are the ones out there trying to get the job done.”

As such valuable assets to a transport company, helping out and going the extra mile for them can really pay off, even if it’s just in small gestures like helping to find a postcode or a petrol station, he adds.

Archer believes that your reputation is “your currency in this business.” and added that delegation is vital so a fleet manager gets into the habit of managing their own time and that of others. Having been in the transport industry for 42 years, he said, “I look forward to passing on my knowledge and experience to the younger generation.”

Volkswagen launches first all-electric van

21 May 2020

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has launched its first fully electric van in the – the zero emissions ABT eTRansporter 6.1.

Developed in collaboration with Premium Partner ABT e-Line, the ABT eTransporter 6.1 offers zero-emissions motoring with an all-electric range of up to 82 miles with a cargo space of 6.7m3. Flexible charging options allow for 80 per cent charge in 45 minutes.

The ABT eTransporter 6.1 delivers a maximum power output of 110PS with a 0-62mph time of 17.4 seconds. The electric motor is connected to the battery via the power electronics that supply energy to both the on-board electronics and the electric motor. The compact battery is fitted underneath the load area to avoid compromising the cargo area, which offers a payload of up to 1,001kg.

Also on the list of technologies for the eTransporter is regenerative braking, which switches the drive motor to generator operation to recover energy lost when braking. The resulting current is fed back into the battery and stored for later use.

The ABT eTransporter 6.1 features a modified dual-clutch transmission DSG, and when Drive (‘D’) is selected, the motor will deliver 75% power to maximise range, with the kickdown function on the gear shift providing 100% power and torque to maximise performance.

The ABT eTransporter 6.1 supports up to 50kW DC charging using a CCS connector, which means the vehicle’s lithium-ion battery can achieve a charging state of 80 per cent within approximately 45 minutes.

Peugeot and Citroen electric vans to go on sale this year

21 May 2020

Peugeot and Citroen have revealed that their fully electric plug-in vans the e-Expert and the e-Dispatch are due to go on sale in the UK later this year.

Peugeot is launching the new e-Expert van that offers two different ranges and three body lengths. Citroen, meanwhile, has confirmed the new e-Dispatch electric van will also be available in three sizes (XS, M and XL).

Both vans will offer payloads of up to 1,275Kg, up to one-tonne towing capacity and both will have a range of 143 or 205 miles depending on version. They also feature a 100% electric motor with a maximum power of 135PS and a maximum torque of 260Nm. Top speed for both is 80mph while 0-62mph can be achieved in 13.1 seconds.

The e-Expert is the first Peugeot electric vehicle to offer two battery capacity options, the 50 kWh and 75 kWh. Compact and standard are available with the 50 KWh battery with a range of up to 143 miles. Standard and Long can also be equipped with a 75 kWh battery with a range of up to 205 miles.

Citroen’s e-Dispatch looks identical to a regular Dispatch, other than a charging point mounted on the front wing and discreet badging. Load volume is unaffected by the electrified powertrain, with the battery pack integrated into the van’s chassis.

From 2021, Citroen says its entire LCV range will include electrified models alongside efficient internal combustion engines. The e-Dispatch will be joined by a 100% electric version of Relay at the end of the year and an electric Berlingo Van next year.

The XS version (4.6m length) provides a 5.1 cubic metre load space and is available with the smaller 50kWh battery, and like the Peugeot, it yields a range of 143 miles while the M version is 4.95m long and can be specified with the 50kWh battery or the larger 75kWh unit, which increases the range to 205 miles.

XL versions are 5.3m long and provide up to 6.6 cubic metres of load space. These are fitted with the larger battery only.

Alexander Dennis reveals vision for 10,000 clean buses in the UK

21 May 2020

Alexander Dennis has revealed its vision for the transformation of UK buses which could see at least 10,000 new low, ultra-low and zero emission electrically powered buses in service in the UK within the next four years.

The bus manufacturer says the new ultra-clean buses could be in operation by the end of the year with the aim of securing the improved air quality towns and cities have experienced during the coronavirus lockdown.

The vision is to replace older diesel vehicles from the network and boost capacity to enable social distancing. In order to achieve this goal Alexander Dennis is urging the UK government and devolved administrations to speed up the transition to cleaner transport.

Alongside this, the company says that securing the future of UK bus manufacturing keeps investment in the country and creates exporting opportunities.

Colin Robertson, Chief Executive of Alexander Dennis, said, “There is strong public support for locking in these benefits through and beyond the post-coronavirus recovery to keep a healthier environment and continue the fight against climate change.

“Along with active travel and other modes of public transport, buses are a crucial part of the solution. As a society, we need to act immediately and deliver benefits as quickly as possible to minimise the deterioration of air quality when the economy restarts.”

Alexander Dennis says the new vehicles would combine different available technologies in a highly deliverable proposal with immediate benefits. The company claims these buses could offer additional capacity to facilitate social distancing and could be ready before the end of the year.

These ultra-low emission buses could bring self-charged zero emission electric range capability – completely cutting out emissions on high streets, near schools or at hospitals – without losing time to infrastructure planning and installation.

Alexander Dennis’ vision incorporates a plan for development of infrastructure for zero emission buses, with battery electric buses available in volume supported by proven expertise in rolling out fleets. Hydrogen buses will play a role for routes requiring additional range and they will be ready when a fuelling infrastructure and a sustainable supply of green hydrogen have been put in place.

The company says the UK bus manufacturers have the production capacity to meet this demand. Further investment to speed up the decarbonisation of transport could create additional highly skilled jobs in a world-class industry.

Robertson added, “We urge the UK Government and devolved administrations to speed up the transition to cleaner transport by accelerating the funding earmarked for zero emission buses.

“Clean, spacious and well-equipped buses would also serve to reassure passengers of a safe journey – with social distancing as required – to places of work, high streets, shopping centres and leisure activities, helping the economic recovery of the nation.

“We are supportive of all cutting-edge clean bus technologies and recognise that one size does not fit all, which is why we have developed a choice of solutions which meet cities and operators’ individual requirements and priorities – whether that is air quality targets, carbon reduction, interior layouts, acquisition costs, total cost of ownership, or a blend of all of these.

“We have invested tens of millions in innovation – our solutions are road-ready to be delivered at scale with the reassurance that they will perform as required.

“We have shared these proposals with senior ministers in the UK and Scottish Governments to show how our industry can lead post-coronavirus economic recovery to deliver health benefits for the entire country. The realisation of our proposals can begin immediately, and they could be scaled up in size and ambition to match councils’ and governments’ decarbonisation targets. We are ready to deliver for the nation.”

BASE unveils prototype of new executive coach

21 May 2020

BASE Coach Sales has offered a first glimpse at its newly-developed MOBIpeople Executive Coach.

The Leyland based dealer unveiled the first prototype which has been built for Anthony’s Travel of Runcorn. When arrives in the UK from the MOBIpeople factory in Portugal, it will then head to AD Coach Systems in Congleton to be converted to the operator’s ‘team coach’ specification.

It utilises a MAN RR2 430bhp chassis, but a version with a Scania chassis will also eventually become available.

Up to 57 seats are available with a centre sunken toilet (or 55 with a rear-floor-mounted toilet).

Richard Bamber, Managing Partner at Anthony’s Travel, said, “As a company we are very proud to be the launch customer for the new MOBIpeople coach and of our partnership with BASE Coach Sales.

“Being part of a small working group of operators who contributed to the design of the vehicle was a great experience and this is truly a bespoke product, not a mass-produced vehicle.

“While we are facing the biggest crisis this industry (and indeed the world) has seen in living memory we were determined with BASE to push ahead with this project, as we mustn’t lose sight of planning for the future and not just focusing on today no matter how troubling things are.”

Antonio Catarino, General Manager of MOBIpeople, added, “We have worked closely with BASE and a number of their customers to deliver what we believe to be an excellent balance between attractive styling and class leading functionality.”

Member Profile – Tiger Trailers

21 May 2020

Tell us a bit about your business? When were you founded, where are you based and how many people do you employ?

Tiger Trailers was founded in 2014 by brothers John and Steven Cartwright, with the vision of creating the most advanced commercial vehicle trailer and bodywork manufacturing facility in the UK based on their 60 years’ combined experience in the industry spanning from the production line to the boardroom. Tiger Trailers is based on a 20-acre site in Winsford, Cheshire, and employs around 250 people. We were the first trailer manufacturer and commercial vehicle bodybuilder to join the Northern Powerhouse to help realise the full economic potential of the north. Providing opportunities for everyone in society is an integral part of Tiger Trailers’ ethos and each year The Alan Cartwright Apprenticeship Awards programme recognises our top-performing apprentices.

What does the business do?

Tiger Trailers is a leading UK manufacturer of trailers and commercial vehicle bodywork and our product range includes curtainsiders, fixed and moving double decks, refrigerated/temperature-controlled solutions, box vans, demountable trailers and bespoke, specialist commissions. We manufacture products for household names such as Hovis, Poundland and Wren Kitchens, for haulage and logistics firms of varying sizes including CM Downton (EV Cargo) and Lomas, and for a wide range of other customers across the UK, Republic of Ireland and internationally. We have developed a lightweight yet remarkably strong trailer solution in close partnership with Tata Steel, and our portfolio also includes the Tiger Trailers Deck Pod, an innovative loading bay solution.

To support our customers in the fullest way possible, we provide an around-the-clock service called Tiger 24/7 which encompasses parts sales, trailer servicing, breakdown and repairs, aided by our own team and vehicle fleet.

Tiger Rentals has quickly grown to comprise a significant part of our business, providing a wide range of trailers in different dimensions to customers around the UK, with tailored rentals starting from just one week and with a service agile enough to enable short notice asset-swapping if required. Our rental trailer operation is run primarily from our new site in the South West and the solution has proved invaluable to customers such as supermarkets in keeping shelves replenished during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Our Tiger Finance division supports customers by identifying and administrating bespoke and competitive financial solutions from finance leases and operating leases to hire purchase.

We are currently unique in that all stages of production are efficiently accommodated under one roof on our site, which also incorporates an indoor product showroom, 3D engineering suite and training facilities, plus electric vehicle charging points and other environmentally-focused systems.

How is business? What’s the outlook for the year ahead?

Though there have certainly been a number of challenges over the past 12 months, and notwithstanding the day-to-day battle with COVID-19, we still hold a positive outlook for the year ahead. We have introduced a string of measures that have allowed us to continue to manufacture and deliver our products to our customers; many of which are providing key support to the food, retail, and pharmaceutical industries at this time. We have a strong order book, and although the coronavirus crisis has certainly impacted upon business confidence and industry demand, we equally don’t envisage Brexit as a negative and remain confident that 2020 will build upon the growth we experienced as a business in 2019.

2020 has seen the recent launch of both Tiger Finance and Tiger Rentals, allowing Tiger Trailers to offer a broader range of options for its customers. Alongside launching our rental fleet, we have also partnered with Spanish trailer manufacturer Lecitrailer in developing a complete range of temperature-controlled trailers and bodies for the UK market.

What are the big issues or technological advances that fill you with positivity?

The coronavirus pandemic has unarguably highlighted what a vital role haulage and logistics firms play as key workers, keeping supply chains moving to ensure that household provisions, medical supplies and other items get to where they are needed – and the resultant, significant boost in public awareness bodes well for our customers and Tiger Trailers itself as a manufacturer. Linked to this, many fleets have relied on flexible hire solutions at this time, injecting positivity over how our Tiger Rentals business will continue to grow.

A related factor instilling us with confidence is the way in which manufacturing was one of the first sectors that Boris Johnson cited as key to restoring UK economic growth during and following the COVID-19 pandemic. This motivates us to continue striving hard in producing high quality products here in the UK for vital supply chain companies and others, underpinned by our apprentice scheme that will always be an integral part of our ethos and provides motivated individuals of all backgrounds in our local area with the chance to embark on a rewarding career in the heavy commercial automotive industry.

Tiger Trailers, Joint Managing Director, Steven Cartwright

Safe working practices crucial as manufacturing plants reopen

14 May 2020

As lockdown measures across the world begin to ease and global markets re-open, we are starting to see operations at some of our bigger manufacturing plants get back into action. On Monday, PSA’s Luton plant will begin van production, as will Ford’s engine factories, while several car plants are also making a tentative return to business.

Three factors are critical for any current restart to be successful. First, supply chains and the logistics networks to support them, second, reopening of the automotive retail sector to help unlock demand, and third, implementing safe working practices to give staff the confidence to return to work – an extraordinarily challenging task as each sector and, indeed, company, has its own working practices and cultures.

That’s why, this week, SMMT, together with other industry bodies, published a series of sector-specific best-practice guidance covering automotive retail, aftersales and manufacturing. The tailored advice to how to create safe working and customer-facing environments is based on government guidelines and you can find it here.