Car dealerships set to reopen in April

Published:  23 February, 2021

Car dealerships are likely to remain closed until April at the earliest, it was revealed yesterday (Monday 22 February).

While garages have been able to operate throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation for car showrooms has been more erratic, with the sector shut through much of the first lockdown, and then closed again in November and January. Now, the new four-stage phased reopening officially announced by the Prime Minister is set to see showrooms able to reopen during step two, along with much of non-essential retail.

The sector has expressed disappointment at the speed of reopening. NFDA Chief Executive Sue Robinson said: “We understand the importance of bringing the virus fully under control. However, it is very disappointing that dealerships will not be able to reopen until April.

“NFDA has already made the government aware of the safety procedures dealerships are able to follow, and of how important it is for our sector to reopen as soon as possible. There are more than 4,500 franchised dealerships in the UK, with over 590,000 people employed in the retail side of the automotive industry.

“Since the outbreak of the virus a year ago, the motor industry was one of the first to work with the government to develop guidelines to enable a safe return to work. Dealerships have invested heavily to adopt best-practice measures and ensure maximum protection for staff and customers.

“Franchised dealers have demonstrated their resilience and ability to adapt, providing online sales and click and collect services. However, these are not enough to sustain businesses this year nor to fully satisfy consumer demand, especially with the upcoming plate change in March. Dealerships could reopen safely and immediately.”

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, added: “The automotive industry understands the priority must be to get the virus under control, relieving pressure on hospitals and protecting society at large. Nevertheless, the fact that retail showrooms must remain closed until April at least, is deeply disappointing given these facilities are COVID-secure, large premises with low footfall and able to operate on an appointment-only basis.

“Whilst “click and collect” can continue, this does not replace the showroom experience on which so many retail customers depend, especially in the all-important March plate change month that represents one in five of annual new car registrations. Unfortunately, the continuing decline in retail business will translate into reduced production volumes as well as giving rise to other operational issues. We look to government to work with the sector to provide ongoing support and clarity so the industry can plan its re-opening and recovery.”

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