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Car dealers must remain alert to customers’ continued COVID-19 concerns

Social distancing at a JCT600 Porsche Centre

Car retailers must continue to reassure customers of their COVID-19 mitigation measures as concerns about the virus fail to ease - outweighing any other issue over the past 50 years.

While the relaxing of social distancing has allowed many retailers to re-commence accompanied test drives and dispense with face coverings – if certain criteria are met – the results of an Ipsos Mori survey has highlighted the need for continued reassurance in showrooms.

The findings of Ipsos Mori’s latest of over 1,000 consumers, whaich has been published this week, found that 75% of the British public see coronavirus as the biggest issue facing the UK, ahead of the economy, Brexit and the NHS.

The figure was 3ppts higher than a survey taken prior to the easing of COVID-19 lockdown and the highest rate of concern recorded by the survey provider for 49 years, suggesting that businesses need to reassure their customers now more than ever.

COVID-19 tops the Ipsos Mori chart of concerns facing UK residentsThe day after the UK was officially informed of its slip into recession, the survey showed that levels of concern about the economy are also higher than those recorded about the economy after the 2008 recession or about Brexit in 2019.

Unemployment remained a key concern of 16% of respondents meanwhile – the highest level in over three years – as the end of the Government’s coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS) draws near.

While worry about unemployment scores relatively low overall, this concern is strongly concentrated among those aged 35 to 54, Iposos Mori found.

Mike Clemence, researcher at Ipsos MORI, said: “Coronavirus continues as Britons’ pre-eminent concern, with three quarters mentioning it as a big issue for the country.

“This is the same level we recorded in the June wave, during the lockdown. This suggests that the impact of loosening restrictions on public concern about the virus appears to be small – although it must be remembered that a score of 75% remains among the highest scores we’ve recorded for any issue in 46 years.”

He added: We also see the start of a rise in worry about unemployment.

“This is currently concentrated strongly among those aged 35 to 54 in more manual professions but this level of concern might be expected to rise as the UK Government furlough scheme reaches its end later this year.”

The Scottish Motor Trade Association (SMTA) was reassured this week that there remains “no legal obligation” for car retailers North of the border to wear face coverings despite legislation changes coming into force from tomorrow.

In a letter responding to enquiries from the Scottish Motor Trade Association (SMTA) Keir McDonald, from the Directorate for Economic Development, confirmed that retail staff would not be obliged to wear a mask where two-metre social distancing or Perspex partitions could be implemented.

However, in light of Ipsos Mori’s survey findings, retailers should consider the implications of any perceived removal of COVID-19 prevention measures in showrooms.

Reassurance should also continue to be offered regarding the sanitisation of vehicles.

New research from hand sanitisation expert FulviSafe, published this week, revealed that the vast majority of UK residents do not wipe their vehicle’s steering wheel before and after driving, which could lead to an increased chance of spreading coronavirus.

It said that car dealerships “pose a high risk to the spread of germs through surface transference” due to the potential for numerous different people entering and exiting vehicles.

FulviSafe found that 85% of drivers do not take the precaution of cleaning steering wheels before and after travelling.

Nicola Allsop, founder of FulviSafe, said: “With the number of people that will be wanting to buy a new car, it is worrying that the vast majority of motorists do not take the simple precaution of wiping down the steering wheel before and after use, and car dealerships must take proactive steps to ensure the safety of employees and customers alike, by providing hand sanitizers on a regular basis.”

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