As our cars are mothballed, what kind of motoring future awaits post-lockdown?

Published: 28 April 2020

► Dreaming of driving again
► Lockdown puts motoring in focus 
► What future for the car world? 

How’s isolation from driving going for you? Up and down the country, around the globe, cars lay dormant, keys hung up, roads fall silent as familes, towns and nations pull up the drawbridge and stay home. 

While some countries are slowly emerging from an enforced hibernation, blinking into the sunshine of whatever the new normal may be, us Brits remain stuck in our houses, with only vague talk of what post-lockdown could look like. 

The coronavirus crisis puts into perspective what luxuries like motoring mean to our lives. When only ‘essential’ travel is allowed, niceties such as ‘going for a drive’ are off the agenda and we at CAR magazine have been following government advice rigorously, working at home to produce the magazine, digital editions and this website. 

All road testing has been paused, we’re well into our reserves of stockpiled features and our staff are missing driving, events and motorsport as much as you. Not driving puts a petrolhead in a quandary: I’m in the surreal position of having a Bentley Continental V8 stockpiled in the garage, on furlough, unable to work: it’s like a child pressing their nose against the Hamleys window, ogling the toy they can’t enjoy.

The car industry and coronavirus: what's happening

Coronavirus lockdown means none of us are able to enjoy our cars

All 542bhp of its exquisitely engineered potency lies stationary, gathering cobwebs, fabulous massaging armchairs empty. Lockdown luxury is a strange conceit, when the country is on an emergency footing and lives are being lost. Driving any car - let alone a luxuriously appointed £150k GT coupe - seems frivolous at times like these.

The future: a very different auto industry

And yet normal times will return. Restrictions will ease, recessions will bite, recoveries will be planned by our political leaders. Will the auto industry survive? Will anyone be able to afford to buy a new car any more? What sort of motoring landscape awaits? The suddenness of this international emergency has been breathtaking.

For all the severity of the 2008 recession, not a single automotive brand collapsed as national self-interest took over and governments propped up ailing car makers. Saab eventually withered and GM shuttered some brands, but the Covid-19 crisis looks deeper and more uncertain.

Manufacturers’ road maps are being ripped up before our eyes. Product plans are being skewed, more streamlined portfolios planned. Individuals’ attitude to private transport is likely to change when exposure to masked crowds on public trains, planes and buses assumes a new risk. And won’t we all hanker after cleaner air when daily life starts up again and commuting recommences? We've had a taste for what could be...

Me? I’m just desperate to open up the Conti and drive somewhere further than our local supermarket. If the car world was already undergoing a transformation before this crisis, the pace of change is now going to accelerate. We’re surely in for a bumpy ride.

What's your prediction for post-coronavirus recovery? Sound off in the comments below

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet