A s Coronavirus has put the country on hold, British motorists still value the need for a timely MOT. Workshops and garages must prepare to avoid a ‘feast’ of demand this Autumn and a ‘famine’ in Spring next year. Following the government’s decision in March to provide a six- month MOT extension to vehicles due a test during lockdown – a policy which was repealed on 1 August – it was unsurprising to see a significant decrease in demand for MOTs during the summer. In the first few weeks of the lockdown, only 20% of tests were taking place on, or prior to, their due date. However, this figure quickly increased to 80% in July, according to statistics taken from the DVSA. Although the six-month MOT extension provision has now ended, deferred tests have created increased demand this Autumn. Owners must be encouraged to book their vehicle’s tests as soon as possible to avoid the disappointment of their regular workshop being unable to accept their vehicle and help to limit a bow-wave of demand in services from workshops. Owner attitudes British motorists have long understood the benefits of regular MOT testing, voicing support for maintaining the frequency of a vehicle’s first test at three years, rather than four, as the Department for Transport has proposed in the past, being just one example of this. During the government’s most recent consultation on reducing the frequency of the test, an SMMT survey found that 83% of car owners valued the peace of mind afforded by the test. Industry insight from recent months suggests this attitude is still prevalent. Given these attitudes, the challenge for workshops will unlikely be how to entice customers through the door, but rather how to prevent them all doing so at once in October and November, creating a bow-wave of demand. With millions of vehicles now due a MOT, workshops face an unprecedented surge of requests for their services. While this might sound an attractive prospect, unless garages can manage the bulge by encouraging customers who deferred their test date to book in early, many will struggle to meet demand now and risk facing significantly less business next spring. Those with extended tests can bring them forward to their original dates and motorists have always had the option of presenting a month- and-a-day early, something which may help a little next Spring. It is not just the testing that will need doing, of course, but any remedial work plus the servicing that very frequently comes hand-in-hand with the MOT. SMMT has supported the aftermarket sector throughout the crisis, working closely with different government departments to ensure that regular testing can resume safely while protecting businesses and jobs. We are now working to maintain the UK’s impressive track record of road safety and prevent unprecedented levels of demand in October and November and a lull in April and May next year. SMMT has had close engagement with government ministers and officials, helping to successfully steer government policy with regards to repealing the six-month MOT extension. Raising the alarm on the unmanageable levels of demands that a growing backlog of MOTs would have for the sector, SMMT collaborated with the DVSA in support of its campaign calling for motorists to have their MOT test done during the summer rather than waiting until later, when demand might outstrip supply. Workshops can help the prevention of an autumnal bulge in demand by 32 AFTERMARKET SEPTEMBER 2020 BUSINESS The SMMT’s Senior Section Manager for Aftermarket looks at how garages should manage the tidal wave of MOTs that will be rushing towards them over the next few months BY Peter Lawton HOW TO AVOID A MOT FEAST AND FAMINE