On 1st April 2020, we published a blog post explaining our response to that first UK pandemic lockdown. Just over a year on, now seems a good moment to reflect on the bigger picture in our own industry, looking at where we’ve been and where things are.
Last year, the tyre industry was one of many that were decimated by Covid-19. Every aspect of this multi-billion pound sector was hit, from supply of raw materials, to manufacturing facilities, to tyre demand.
It was bad news for hundreds of thousands of workers worldwide, many living without the type of support provided in the UK. Colossal numbers of people were affected: the EU tyre sector alone directly employs 360,000 workers in 4,300 companies. Then there was the knock-on effect for all those ancillary companies and workers.
At BK Tyres, we were fortunate enough to be able to operate throughout the lockdowns. As key transport workers, we had a role in helping maintain the UK’s transport infrastructure, keeping other key workers, food delivery and emergency workers on the road.
But outside of our corner of the world, manufacturers were facing a grim picture. With very few people travelling, demand for tyres collapsed — and to an unprecedented extent. In Q2, 2020, the ETRMA (European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers) reported the worst sales figures in its history. Sales figures for passenger cars, SUVs and light commercial vehicles were down by a jawdropping 31%, with other vehicle types (if you exclude tractors) not faring much better.
Even when they could sell tyres, manufacturers couldn’t always make them, with plants shut down for an average of 33 days.
That seemed an awfully big hole for the industry to climb out of. Quite reasonably, many were predicting it would take a long, long time.
Yet, just for once, there’s been some positive news. The signs are that the tyre industry is bouncing back pretty quickly — with all the benefits that brings to workers, their families, and national economies. Take Pirelli, for example. In the first quarter of 2021, sales were up 18.4% over the equivalent period last year (1.24 billion euros). Overall, sales within the ETRMA have increased substantially in every sector, from heavy vehicles (up 18%) through motorbikes and scooters (up 17%), to passenger cars (up 12%). Given that some restrictions are still in place in many countries, that’s a remarkable recovery.
Clearly, we’re not out of the woods yet. Just a few days ago, Continental announced that work at its massive Aachen plant in Germany would be suspended for a week, following a coronavirus outbreak amongst its 1,800 workers.
Also, it would be pretty heartless to talk about ‘after the pandemic’ when, at the time of writing, Covid-19 is still raging across India and many other parts of the world.
But we have to take the good news where we can find it. And for our own industry, despite setbacks, it looks as though things are on a positive trend towards a much-needed return to normality.
The BK Tyres blog carries news, views and information on tyres and related subjects. BK Tyres is a supplier and fully mobile fitter of tyres throughout Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. Contact us today.