Opinion: We’re in uncharted territory mistakes will be made and the MOT extension is a big one

GW columnist Andy Parsons has his fingers crossed for a return to normality

Opinion: We’re in uncharted territory mistakes will be made and the MOT extension is a big one
Image: Bigstock.

Well these are interesting days that none of us have ever experienced the like of.

Andy Parsons of Shortfield garage in Surrey.

As we entered March this year, it was already clear that we were in for tough times.

We started to put in place procedures to carry on, assuring our customers (many of whom are key workers) that the Government had said that Garages could remain open and that we would be here for them, only to be hit at the end of March with the announcement from the government of a six month extension to the MOT expiry date, which effectively, combined with lockdown switched off our income stream overnight.

With car showrooms already prohibited from opening we had no revenue and after one week of battling through we made the instant decision to furlough all staff and close.

I do not want to beat up the current government.

Regardless of your political persuasion, we are in uncharted territory and there will be mistakes made as well as reasons for doing certain things that may not be divulged to the great unwashed.

Imagine if they acted on a knee jerk reaction, closed the country down in February and then nothing transpired.

Would they be hailed as hero’s for potentially saving lives or berated for costing businesses money by closing prematurely.

However, who the hell thought that a hasty MOT extension was a well thought out plan?

The initial message that came out was all MOT’s were now put forward six months from that point, the 30th March 2020.

It then became clearer that they were to be extended six months, on a weekly basis with the option to stop it at any point.

Suddenly, probably somewhat in panic, people started to hibernate and many people cancelled MOT’s whilst others stopped responding to reminders.

The first week of April was tough with MOT’s and servicing being cancelled.

Another problem from a business point of view is the potential time bomb of excessive demand being stored up, with potentially twice as many MOT’s being due in September, October and maybe November and December, followed up by a blackhole next March April and May as there were obviously few MOT’s this year.

This means that we will almost certainly lose business at both points in the year.

Three weeks ago the IGA called for a united stand to end MOT discounting.

I think most independents agree this would be a good thing but it’s going to be a battle when more than 22,000 MOT stations compete for possibly 500 thousand instead of 2.5 million MOT’s per month next year.

I think it’s time that the DVSA stopped devaluing the test and made the fee obligatory.

And of course, possibly the worst consequence of this delay is the number of unroadworthy vehicles that may be on the road.

If I were to make an educated guess, many of the people who put off their MOT for the full six months are going to be those cars that are in most need of attention.

The average failure rate is 31 per cent which means 775 thousand cars that would fail per month will be potentially on the roads.

I am genuinely concerned about the ramifications of this.

How will insurances companies view it if a car with bald tyres is involved in an accident?

Are owners aware of the fines they could face.

Who takes the blame if a company vehicle is stopped by the police and it has a serious fault, the company or the driver.

What happens if someone is seriously injured or worse after an accident involving an unroadworthy car, no matter who’s fault the accident is.

The IGA is lobbying hard and has written to the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, urging him to end the six-month MOT extension.

Let’s hope that the government takes on board all of our concerns.

We’ve now reopened the garage as of 11 May and initially we’ve had a great response from our customers.

MOT’s are fully booked for the next two weeks and other work is steadily returning.

There are additional costs involved, PPE for staff, cleaning and antibacterial products for cars and new additional processes to keep staff and customers safe.

Plus the fact, many suppliers are still closed leading to difficulty obtaining parts.

We have already been hit financially, six weeks closed has had a toll and car sales still closed until further advice from the government, has made a huge dent in our resources.

We will never get that opportunity back, as what we sell essentially is time and that time is gone for good.

We normally are running at pretty much full capacity so even if there is pent up demand, we may not be able to do any more than we would have done normally.

Let’s hope that the current situation continues to improve and we see a swift return to normality, even if it is with gloves on and distances kept.

Stay safe, keep calm and carry on.

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