Pebley Beach Group managing director Dominic Threlfall has told AM that he took the decision to end click and collect car sales in COVID-19 ‘Lockdown 3’ as it was “morally the right thing to do”.
Threlfall said that he fully expected backlash from other industry figures and knew that “many car manufacturers don’t want sales to end”, despite the current crisis, but said that continuing to sell vehicles had felt “a bit naughty”.
News of the Swindon-based group’s stance comes the day after the Scottish Government confirmed that car retailers would be permitted to sell via click and collect following a tightening of COVID-19 retail restrictions due to come into force on Saturday.
Earlier this week, sources suggested that the high rate of COVID cases currently being seen in the UK could prompt a change to click and collect rules in England, meanwhile.
“Is click and collect safe? Absolutely, without a show of a doubt it’s safer in automotive than in any other sector, but I feel that what we’ve done is the right thing to do morally,” said Threlfall, who said his market area currently had the UK’s highest infection rate and an NHS Trust in a state of emergency.
He said: “Our staff were having to exit the showroom via a side fire door to meet customers in a service area to conduct a remote handover. It all just feels a bit naughty, if you know what I mean.
“I think we’ll be repaid in the goodwill of our customers who see that we are concerned about putting health and safety above profit.”
Pebley Beach is a Suzuki GB and Hyundai Motor UK franchisee and Threlfall said that he had decided to cease click and collect having consulted both OEMs and addressed staff on the subject on Monday.
The business will continue to provide and aftersales service and click and delivery of sold cars, he said, with two sales staff remaining in the business to facilitates sales during lockdown.
Threlfall said that he felt ending click and collect would not impact his business’s sales volumes across the course of the year. He said: “If we stop these click and collect sales now I’m confident they will still come in at a later date, as demonstrated in June and July, when we had a monster time.
“I don’t think ending click and collect now will make a blind bit of difference to our sales.
“The truth is that we’re dragging out those sales through the lockdown period and it’s probably costing us.”
Threlfall announced his move to axe click and collect via LinkedIn. He said that he expected some negative feedback from the sector, but added: “In the situation we’re in, and industry colleagues concerned that their OEM partners are still raising targets at the current time, I thought it was right to raise my head above the parapet and stand by my decision – taking any consequences on the chin.”
Speaking to AM yesterday morning The Scottish Motor Trade Association's (SMTA) chief executive, Sandy Burgess, said he was “delighted” to receive confirmation from the Scottish Government that the car retail sector would be able to continue selling vehicles as the country continues to battle the pandemic.
He said: “This clarification ensures that the option is still there and that’s vital for the sector as a whole.”
National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) chief executive, Sue Robinson, said it was “positive” that the Scottish Government has confirmed that ‘click & collect’ and delivery services of vehicles bought online can continue, meanwhile.
She added: “Franchised dealers have demonstrated ‘click & collect’ and deliveries can be performed in a COVID-secure way protecting the health of colleagues and customers.
“This will allow our members to continue to offer a safe option to all those that need to buy a car during these challenging times."