Breakdown call-outs are nearly back at levels seen before the coronavirus crisis, the AA’s boss has told Sky News.
Chief executive Simon Breakwell said there had been a 60% drop in breakdowns at the start of the coronavirus lockdown but that recent weeks had seen a noticeable recovery.
By Wednesday, call-outs were only 6% lower than usual, he told Sky’s Ian King Live.
However, he said a recovery in traffic was only part of the cause, with patrols also asked to help drivers experiencing problems when trying to start their engines for the first time in a while.
He said the motoring organisation had seen its biggest ever car battery sales last month as batteries left idle during the lockdown needed to be replaced.
Explaining the increase in call-outs, Mr Breakwell said: “It’s not so much lots of people getting back on the roads – though there’s definitely been more people on the roads.
“It’s us repairing members who are starting up their cars for the first time, so there’s been a definite, definite pick-up over the last couple of weeks.”
It comes as the AA reported a doubling in pre-tax profits to £107m for the year to the end of January, helped by a return to growth for its roadside membership base and more sales of insurance policies.
Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis it has acted to cut costs by freezing pay and hiring across its workforce, as well as applying for help from the government’s furlough scheme for some staff.
It is also offering free breakdown cover to NHS workers, and said 20,000 have signed up.
Despite acknowledging the impact on business, the company said its profits for the current financial year would only be slightly below the 2019/20 level.
That cheered investors, sending shares 8% higher.