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Car dealership closures start ahead of UK lockdown (UPDATED)

UK prime minster Boris Johnson

Several franchised dealer groups had announced on Monday the temporary closures of their car showrooms just hours before Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a lockdown of all non-essential workers and businesses tonight.

Johnson has just stated on Monday night that all retailers, except essential ones such as food stores, post offices, laundrettes and pharmacies, must now close to ensure British citizens do not have unnecessary contact with each other as cases of the coronavirus COVID-19 continue to rise.

Workshops (described as garages by the government), petrol stations and car rental operations are allowed to continue operating, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has since said.

It specified that car showrooms shpuld not open for trade after close of business on Monday, March 23.

It said environmental health and trading standards officers will be enlisted to monitor compliance, with police support if required.

A business operating in contravention of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closures) Regulations 2020 will be committing an offence, and subject to prohibition notices, and potentially unlimited fines.

Earlier on Monday AM saw online announcements from AM100 dealer groups Sytner, Marshall Motor Group, HR Owen, Lookers and Chorley Group that they would be sending home their staff and closing dealerships as early as tonight and by Wednesday at the latest, to ensure the safety of employees and customers.

Luxury car retailer HR Owen said all its sales staff moved to work from home as of 6pm Monday and all phones will be diverted.

Its chief executive Ken Choo thanked customers and staff for their support. "As many wise people have commented lately, we will come through this if we pull together.

"We look forward to better times ahead. Until then, stay well and look after yourself."

Sytner's chief executive Darren Edwards announced to staff and customers Monday afternoon that all the dealerships within the UK's largest franchised dealer group would close at the end of Tuesday.

Sytner plans to launch a buy online option on its website later this week.

"I would like to thank my fellow colleagues for their dedication over the last few weeks as we have together navigated our way through this challenge. They have all been amazing and I am immensely proud of what we have achieved. 

"Over the coming days, the Sytner team will work together, to care for our customers and look after each other’s well-being. This is a situation that we have not had to deal with before; we are entering uncharted territory and will be learning and adapting as we travel along this path," stated Edwards on Sytner's website.

Arnold Clark said it would have minimal employees on its sites Tuesday morning to facilitate with immediate closure and securing of the premises.

Its call centre team, which is working remotely from home, will contact all affected customers, and will operate reduced customer service hours from Thursday onwards.

Arnold Clark had previously offered the free use of two vehicles from each of its rental locations for people assisting vulnerable groups in their communities.

Marshall's statement said it was closing all physical dealerships, bodyshops and parts shops from 7pm Monday until further notice.

"The health, safety and wellbeing of our colleagues, customers, their families and brand partners is our highest priority," it added.

At Chorley Group, a winner of multiple AM Best UK Dealership To Work For awards, managing director Pauline Turner told AM on Monday afternoon: "We have started sending non-essential staff home today and will temporary close all of our dealerships by Thursday evening. May lots of others follow suit for the sake of employees, theirs families and the customers."

The measures announced on Monday night by the UK's Prime Minster Boris Johnson include police powers to fine people and disperse gatherings of more than two people.

Now UK citizens must stay at home except for shopping for basic necessities, daily exercise, any medical need and travelling to and from essential work.

Johnson said he knew the "damage" the restrictions were causing to people's lives, businesses and jobs but at present there were "no easy options".

 

"The way ahead is hard, and it is still true that many lives will sadly be lost," he said.

He described the coronavirus COVID-19 as "the biggest threat this country has faced for decades".



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