If nothing else the coronavirus pandemic has underlined the importance of personal mobility for key workers and members of the public alike. Ensuring safe and reliable transport has meant that UK automotive aftermarket manufacturers, parts suppliers and garages have stayed open to support road users, pushing businesses in the sector to adjust to the new normal.
Doug Bentley, Head of Research and Development at Klarius Products Ltd, the largest UK aftermarket manufacturer of emission control solutions, explains how the business has adapted to the pandemic and looks at what is next for the aftermarket.
During the height of lockdown, traffic on UK roads dropped by 73% as people generally stayed at home. Additionally, the government postponed all MOT testing for 6 months from 30th March 2020. While this represented a potential demand shortfall for the automotive aftermarket, road users were still legally required to keep their vehicle ‘roadworthy’ throughout the pandemic. To ensure that motorists had access to quality repairs, both garages and the wider aftermarket stayed open to offer critical maintenance support.
At Klarius, we continued to provide high quality replacement exhausts to support essential repairs. The majority of our available ramp time at the R&D centre was used to support key workers, including NHS nurses. It was important to supply replacement parts quickly, and in many cases, we fitted the components ourselves. Our extensive range of products also meant we could continue support for light commercial vehicles making deliveries throughout lockdown. Combined with members of the public requiring critical repairs, this created demand for replacement exhausts despite the MOT postponement.
As the UK lockdown eases, the next challenge for the aftermarket is to meet the requirement in Q3 and Q4 when MOT testing starts again. We expect this to cause a rise in exhaust demand of between 25-50%, as motorists rush to ensure their vehicles are roadworthy. A number of our garage customers have informed us they are fully booked up into September. This is going to be a busy period.
Mark Brickhill, CEO at Klarius, elaborates: “The automotive aftermarket will see an unprecedented spike in demand as the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) forecasts 17.9 million MOT tests from September to December 2020. This is a rise of 6.4 million (56%) compared this period last year. Drivers will find booking tests challenging and the best advice is to book early.
“October and November are each forecast to require 5 million MOT tests against a normal monthly demand of 2.5 to 3 million. The industry has never performed over 4 million tests in a single month, let alone 5 million. The challenge to every business supplying the UK’s garages, auto-factors and tyre dealers is enormous. Even more so for all those working on the front line of our industry serving car and van drivers directly.”
Currently, at Klarius we have a production plan in place to meet this demand spike. Our extensive range, which is supported by market data driven manufacturing and warehouse stocking procedures, is designed to provide availability across a wide range of vehicle applications. This allows us to supply quality replacement components quickly, ensuring that our end customers can deliver repairs faster. We offer next morning delivery on any product in range across the UK.
In the long term, relying on data and collaborating with customers and industry organisations will be important. Utilising MOT data from the DVSA to spot market opportunities and make forecasts will be crucial for aftermarket suppliers looking to secure profitability. Close dialogue with customers can further inform this insight. Additionally, memberships of organisations such as the Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF) allows companies such as ours to meet with colleagues and discuss future challenges together.
At Klarius, we will be continuing to leverage an extensive product range, a responsive development program and flexible service to support both our customers and motorists into the future.
Image 2: Doug Bentley, Head of Research and Development at Klarius Products Ltd