This week we should have been enjoying the famous Western Group PR Driving Day, but instead we are all suffering to various degrees from the lingering effects of the Coronavirus-19 pandemic.
In just over two- months our motoring world has ground to standstill. Manufacturers have started the return to work after big investments in hygiene and social distancing requirements but they come with production penalties and have largely been fulfilling orders delayed since the end of March.
They need customer orders and showrooms have only just opened in England and are just beginning after making their own physical changes to welcome customers. Wales is still a no-go area for car buyers along with visitors from over Offa’s Dyke until at least 18 June, some ten days after they welcome buyers in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Dealers say there is a lot of pent-up demand through telephone, text and email enquiries over the lockdown period where sales staff were in or working from home and with the drastic curtailing of public transport there is going to be greater reliance than ever before on private transport.
The manufacturers’’ test fleets have been put into service with public bodies to help transport needs and social distancing in workshops has dramatically cut what can be cleaned, serviced and sent out, possibly just a fifth of the usual throughput in one case I was told.
Some are up and running this month, with restrictions, but others are looking at July and August as they adjust to conditions and even then most are planning to avoid public transport and double-up on deliveries and collections even if it means a chase vehicle behind the press car.
Handovers will be different with strict surface cleaning before and after the loan and one manufacturer is going to use a portable sanitizer system each time.
No-one knows how long the new regime will last and what will happen when the pandemic ends but life is definitely unlikely to ever be the way it was at the end of February.
For journalists the familiar launch will be different as well. Some minor changes are now likely to be done on-line with driving restricted and possibly as a rule held in the UK for us. If a manufacturer wants the vehicles driven it will be a challenge to find hotels which can take a smaller group but over a few days more. Pairing up in cars may be outlawed as well.
The really smart PRs will provide some more memorable events unlike those with less imagination which has always been the case. It’s just everything will be sharper but not necessarily more enjoyable.
That will still be down to actual driving and it’s the really important element we have to all keep firmly focused on achieving whichever side of the business you happen to be working – with two metres separation of course.
Robin is the longest serving chairman of The Western Group. He’s been vice chairman or chairman for over ten years and oversees the annual Western Group PR Driving Day each summer assisted by the group committee and supported by group members.
He contributes to a number of outlets in Wales and the UK, including the Driving Force editorial syndication agency feeding the biggest regional news and feature publishers in Britain.
Robin specialises in the Welsh automotive sector and motor related businesses with interests in Wales and publishes WheelsWithinWales.uk which covers news, features, trade and motor sport in Wales.