Carry on regardless: Despite new lockdown, garages in England to remain open

Published:  02 November, 2020

Garages will be able to remain open when England goes into a month-long lockdown from Thursday (5 November), following the Prime Minister’s announcement of a further period of confinement for the country, it has been confirmed.

There do not appear to be any plans for a return of the MOT exemption either, which was cancelled and ended earlier than planned following sustained campaigning from the industry. 

On Saturday (31 October) Boris Johnson announced a further period of lockdown for England, that is set to end on 2 December, although it was then later suggested that this may only be a review date, and that the lockdown period could be extended further.

The furlough scheme has also been extended until 2 December as a result, with the Job Support Scheme now set to kick off next month.

As before, while hospitality venues, gyms, hair and beauty outlets and non-essential shops will be among the many businesses required to close. Meanwhile, garages are among the businesses that will be able to continue to operate, along with petrol stations, newsagents, undertakers, storage and distribution centres, bicycle shops and many others.

While garages and workshops are on the essential businesses list, car retailers are not.

During the Spring, while many independent garages remained open, franchised dealer workshops were mainly shuttered, in line with the closure of showrooms. However, car dealers were among some of the first retail businesses deemed non-essential to emerge from lockdown when they were able to open on 1 June.

Across two letters sent to the P.M sent over the weekend as rumours of a renewed lockdown turned into fact, NFDA Director Sue Robinson argued the case for the motor retail sector to continue to be allowed to remain open. 

“Car dealerships are being run in way which is stopping the spread of the virus,” she said. “Closing the premises where vehicles are sold would undermine efforts to control the virus.”

Sue added: “Dealerships have not caused Covid-19 to spread over the past five months - and nor are they causing it to spread today. Vehicle retail is an essential economic activity.”

SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes observed: “As England heads back into lockdown, we need to keep business operating. Auto manufacturing must have its showrooms open; it’s proven safe and secure, a very different environment from other retail premises. We need to keep the economy turning - safely - and prevent wider job losses.”

IMI CEO Steve Nash added: “Ensuring individuals and businesses have access to the necessary services to support their vehicles – from repairs, MOT and servicing to vehicle sales – is crucial. It’s hard to understand, therefore, why car showrooms should be excluded from the ‘essential services’ list in the lockdown due to start later this week.

“Motor retailers have already taken extraordinary measures, even compared to other retailers, to truly isolate customers from risk. That includes the extensive physical measures in showrooms, but also such steps as deep cleaning of vehicles and unaccompanied test drives.

“Similar measures also exist in service departments, where there is no direct physical contact between customers and staff and, again, cars are extensively cleaned and sterilised before and after any work is undertaken as well as payments handled remotely or contact free.

Steve concluded: “With the Chancellor encouraging manufacturing to remain operational it seems illogical to remove the channels through which those vehicles manufactured can be sold. And that, in turn, means a whole swathe of individuals and businesses who might face a further loss in income which will simply add more pressure to government finances.”

Across the UK, the Coronavirus restrictions picture remains varied. Wales is set to see its month-long firebreak end next Monday (9 November), while this morning in Scotland, a new five-tier system was launched. In Northern Ireland, current Coronavirus restrictions are set to end on 13 November.

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