Back at the beginning of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, I made the decision that, as the lights went out in the car industry across the UK, we’d shift the emphasis of AROnline‘s editorial stance from covering current news events to a more nostalgic approach. The Memories series of articles followed, and you seemed to be delighted by a selection of street scene and carpark images, harking back to simpler (although not necessarily better) times.
During the ensuing weeks, the Memories articles attracted record-breaking numbers (for AROnline) of you onto the site, and for that, I thank each and every one of you. However, as the UK’s Automotive sector is now gradually resuming production, with Jaguar Land Rover (above) for instance now building cars while observing social distancing and the rest of us attempt to pick up our lives where we left off in March, it feels like the right time to switch the news back on – and look at the future of Memories.
The idea that life for everyone is going to be the same as before March 2020 is probably unachievable in the short term – possibly even forever. Politicians and commentators talk about the ‘new normal’ and, having been one of the lucky ones who managed continue working from home throughout the ‘lockdown’, I can certainly see a future where many more people (who can) will end up working without the need of an office – and quite so many face-to-face meetings.
For many of us, these have been tough times indeed with businesses closed up and customers – through necessity – staying at home. Many employees are currently on furlough, and a considerable number of those might not have jobs to go back to. For all of you and your families in this situation, I genuinely hope it’s temporary, that all of those predictions of impending economic catastrophe are being overplayed and that we bounce back strongly, Alan Partridge-style. We all need a positive right now.
Anyway, we’re all facing uncertain times. But the car industry is doing all it can to kickstart its power-up. While we hear that dealers are opening up on 1 June, many garages and service centres have worked through the pandemic keeping those who were still driving on the roads. A number of UK car factories are already up and running, building motors to satisfying pent-up demand in a market that’s been in stasis. UK sales in March were down 40% and collapsed by an astonishing 97% in April, but the reality is that most of these are deferred, not cancelled, sales…
However, things are going to be different. Social distancing will be a thing for the foreseeable future, foreign holidays are likely to be off this year and we’ll be watching the pennies going forwards. Let’s hope some of the positives to have emerged over the past few weeks stick around – communities have come together, we’re talking more to long-lost friends, and we’re caring more about the NHS, key workers, and the importance of people who actually keep the country moving and put food on the table.
As for AROnline, I’m happy that so many people found comfort and entertainment from our pictures of the past, but I’m wondering whether it’s time to draw a line under that and concentrate on reporting a car industry that’s about to go through some very challenging times. Over the past few weeks, we’ve proved that we can make huge changes – and achieve in days what we once thought would take months or years to achieve. The world’s services didn’t come to a stop, despite the challenges, the lights stayed on and food continued to make its way into the shops.
So, is it time to look forwards rather than backwards? Or can we do both? Let me know…
Swansea 1970 (above) versus Swansea 2020 (below)… The new normal?