Car retailers have been categorised among a Government-issued list of retail providers who can provide a click and collect sales process during the COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown.
Clarification from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), published on the gov.uk website today (May 13), indicated that retailers could complete sales on dealership premises on the condition that customers do not enter the showroom environment.
The National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) confirmed that the click and collect option had been given the green light for car dealers this afternoon.
“Following updated Government guidance issued this morning, NFDA can confirm that although physical ‘car showrooms’ should remain closed to the public pending further developments, dealers are entitled to offer a ‘click and collect’ service at dealerships for vehicles purchased remotely”, said director Sue Robinson.
The NFDA said that, provided dealers follow strict social distancing and hygiene protocols at their sites and provided customers do not enter the actual car showroom, customers may visit dealership premises to collect purchased vehicles as well as dropping off vehicles for repair or servicing and collecting them post repair/service.
It suggested that handover/paperwork is completed on the dealership forecourt or parking area, using an appointment system with appropriate social distancing and hygiene measures in place.
Further guidance can be found within a joint COVID-19 sales document published jointly by the NFDA and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) today. The document can be downloaded by clicking here.
The Government guidance for all retail, as published online this morning, states: “All retail, other than those exempt, must close their premises to members of the public.
“However, staff may be present to make deliveries or provide services in response to orders such as those through telephone, online, or mail.
“Click and collect services can also operate, though customers must not enter premises listed.”
Car showrooms join auction houses and outdoor markets in the list of premises which cannot admit customers under the Government’s current lockdown rules.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson indicated in an update to legislation which eased restrictions on certain industries and workers as of today (May 13), that car dealerships would not be allowed to re-open until June 1 at the earliest.
That date is dependent on the rate of COVID-19 infections remaining under control.
While lockdown restrictions remained the same in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, individuals in England are now allowed to drive “as far as you like” to a location to exercise and are permitted to do so more than once a day.
Workers in construction, logistics and scientific research roles were also told that they should return to work , if possible, and should avoid public transport to commute to and from their workplace.
The changes could, feasibly, drive an increased need for aftersales services from car retail operations across England.
Speaking to AM prior to the Prime Minister’s announcements this week, Vertu Motors chief executive Robert Forester expressed his hopes that car retail could skip a “click and collect” phase on the way to a full re-opening.
Like many other operators, his sites have restructured showrooms, introduced contactless temperature testing and changed their processes to enforce social distancing ahead of a full retun to trading.
He said: “I’m currently not engaging in mass deliveries and I think we’re so close to being able to open fully with social distancing measures in place that I don’t think we’ll have to go through the interim step of click and collect.”
In response to government's guidance that car dealers will not be allowed to open until June 1 at the earliest, but can offer a 'click and collect' service, James Hind, the chief executive of carwow, said he was “very pleased” to hear that car dealers have been given the green light to offer click and collect.
He added: “There is a rising demand for cars, particularly now in light of the need to return to work but remain socially distanced and the government's directive to avoid public transport where possible, and also with the opportunity to now travel by car for leisure.
“Indeed, our own data shows a significant increase week on week of consumers looking to buy a new car on carwow, with activity levels close to what we'd have expected in a normal May.
“Many dealerships have been working hard getting ready for click and collect and are taking every safety precaution to ensure a safe handover that buyers can feel comfortable with.
“And for those consumers who don't wish to go to the showroom to collect, the majority of dealers are offering home delivery now as well."