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Just 35% of franchised car dealerships fully staffed for September, NFDA finds

NFDA chief executive, Sue Robinson

Just 35% of franchised car retailers have returned all their employees to into their dealership businesses in time for the crucial September 70-plate sales period, according to the NFDA.

The National Franchised Dealer’s Association (NFDA) published some of the findings from its latest post-lockdown automotive retail survey this lunch time and showed that just over a third (35%) had completed the return of all their staff to work following the COVID-19 lockdown period.

Carried out between September 7 and 14, the survey found that 53% of franchised dealers have brought back 75% of staff, meanwhile.

The results represent a significant improvement over July's survey results, however, when the NFDA's findings revealed that less than 12% of the UK's franchised car dealerships were “fully staffed”.

NFDA director, Sue Robinson, said that dealers are bringing more staff back to dealerships and are “working hard to improve the efficiency of their workshops” amid improvements in trade, however.

She said: “Dealers report high levels of online enquiries and customer footfall for used cars. Following August’s marginal decline in private demand for new cars, it is encouraging to see that interest in used cars remains strong.

“Aftersales departments have been busy over the past weeks as roads get busier and motorists visit franchised dealers more regularly for a number of repairs including basic maintenance checks that might have been overlooked during the lockdown.”

The survey asked dealers questions about the current situation since reopening including the numbers of staff that have returned to work, current levels of customer footfall as well as online enquiries and sales.

Respondents revealed that franchised dealers are experiencing high levels of footfall for used cars, with 39% seeing an increase of up to 25% from this time last year.

Online enquiries for new cars saw an increase for 44% of franchised dealers in the last month, whilst 70% had more enquiries for used cars, while 50% of dealers saw an increase in online used car sales and 30% enjoyed more online sales for new cars.

In aftersales, 72% of franchised dealers reported an increase in online and phone bookings for service departments.

Robinson said: “We will continue to monitor the health of the sector over the coming weeks and tailor our surveys to obtain accurate dealers’ insights in line with the current state of the market.”

The latest digital edition of AM magazine delivered eight steps to “Smashing September” alongside insight features from car retail group bosses and car manufacturers about their tactics to make the most of the key ‘plate change month.

While the likes of TrustFord chief executive Stuart Foulds and Vertu Motors chief executive Robert Forrester stopped short of describing that September was now “make or break” as many businesses aim to leverage it as part of their COVID-19 recovery strategy, it remains a key period.

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