One of Barbados’ main new-car dealers is predicting at least a 50 per cent decline for the market this year, following a “tremendous hit” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Managing Director of NASSCO Ltd Roger Hill said so far his company was forced to send home five people and layoff another five.
However, he said while he expected this year to be a “horrible” one for his company and he expected there will be some write-offs, he was confident the company would survive the challenges
Following a lockdown in late March, the company reopened almost eight weeks ago and the first four weeks were “pretty horrible”, said Hill.
“We must say that in June things have looked a little better, but still, if we look at it in an overall industry of new vehicles, we think that sales this year in comparison to new vehicle sales last year we are going to be down probably by 50 per cent or more. It is going to be difficult. I am not going to pass that over.”
There has been a reduction in the sale of new vehicles in Barbados over the past three years, going from roughly 31,000 per year to just over 26,000.
In addition to the sale of vehicles, NASSCO is also involved in vehicle financing, the sale of car parts and servicing and currently employs 85 people across its operations.
Hill said: “We have seen the effects on all the departments. It is not only that because a new vehicle is a big-ticket item is it going to stop right away, but we have also seen the effects of reduced sales in parts. We are seeing the effect of reduced sales in servicing.”
Despite this however, he said the company was not considering any further restructuring at this time, adding that such a move would only take place if the situation goes in “a really bad direction”.
Regarding the layoff, Hill said prior to the pandemic the company was “overstaffed”.
“With COVID-19 now the rug has been ripped from under our feet. We have had to make about five people redundant and we have about another five people on layoff. That is the effect,” he said.
Pointing to the number of people out of work due to the stagnation in the tourism industry, Hill said a stop was put to the sale of several Toyota Hiace vans that were approved and ready for delivery just prior to the pandemic.
“That is because our customer has no business until the industry is started. I am sure that when it has started back, and the right protocols are put in place that we will get back to the levels where we were. But it is going to take some time. Nothing is going to happen overnight. It is going to take maybe a year or two to take us back to that point,” said Hill.
Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce Dwight Sutherland expressed sadness at the “tremendous” suffering that micro, small and medium enterprises experienced during the height of the pandemic.
He suggested that companies which borrowed from the government lending agencies could get a further ease, pointing out that he was in the process of reviewing “to what extent businesses could resume payments on their loans.
“We at the Trust Loan and Fund Access, the two lending agencies for micro and small enterprises, have given a moratorium on payments for the length of time coronavirus was here.
“We can’t expect people’s businesses to close and then ask them to come and pay their loans between March, April, May and June. That is not fair, and we recognize that,” said Sutherland.
Additionally, he said Government was driving greater use of technology to help improve the doing business climate.
The Minister was confident that with the resumption of the once buoyant tourism industry in coming weeks full confidence would return to the local business environment.
Read our ePaper. Fast. Factual. Free.
Sign up and stay up to date with Barbados' FREE latest news.