Pendragon and Inchcape have announced thousands of job losses as falling car sales caused by the pandemic hit dealerships and vehicle delivery companies.

Pendragon, which owns the Evans Halshaw and Stratstone brands, announced 1,800 UK job losses as it closes 15 lossmaking sites and restructures the company.

Inchcape, which owns dealerships in the UK and operates a global car distribution business, announced “a reduction of our global workforce” as part of a group overhaul after the company fell to a £188m pre-tax loss for the first half of the year.

Pendragon’s shares fell 5 per cent to 7.7p, while Inchcape’s lost 10 per cent to 437p by early afternoon on Thursday.

At Pendragon, about 400 roles will be lost through the closures, and another 1,400 through a move towards a “leaner and more sustainable operating model [that] is necessary to safeguard the Pendragon business,” the company said.

Chief executive Bill Berman said that “productivity gains” during lockdown, as well as a strategic overhaul of the company to be announced next month, led to the majority of the losses.

For six weeks during lockdown, Mr Berman operated from Florida, corralling company executives and sales managers remotely.

“Even after retailers opened, offices were still shut, and we started to realise we were able to operate without having to meet together and visit sites,” he told the Financial Times.

New digital operations helped increase efficiency across the business, which was already “overstaffed” going into the pandemic, he added.

The company’s strategic review, begun before the pandemic and released next month, is not expected to include additional job cuts.

Inchcape, which has more than 17,000 staff worldwide, did not provide numbers, though some of the cuts will hit its head office functions, which are in the UK.

Analyst Mike Allen at Zeus Capital said the company is better prepared than rivals because of its focus on distribution, rather than showrooms, and its international spread, with operations in more than 30 countries.

The losses come hours after Britain’s motor industry body, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, warned that the sector was braced for further job cuts because of the pandemic, which has sapped consumer demand for new vehicles.

New car sales in the UK halved in the first six months of the year to 653,000, figures released earlier this month show. In June, when showrooms were open in most of England and parts of Scotland and Wales, sales still fell by 35 per cent compared with the same period the year before.

Earlier in the summer, dealer group Lookers announced 1,500 jobs losses, while privately held Jardine Motors has cut 500 roles.

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