UK new vehicle showrooms in England and Wales reopened on 12 April along with many other businesses such as ‘non essential’ retailers, hairdressers, gyms, outdoor dining and drinking, and zoos.
Retailers in Scotland are currently offering click & collect, online purchasing services, in line with local restrictions introduced on 5 April. These retailers expect to re-open from 26 April. In Northern Ireland, click & collect services resumed today.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) produced updated sector-specific guidance for dealers to ensure reopened premises were safe spaces for employees and visitors.
The guidance covers processes such as booking appointments (still required to enter showrooms) to staff-customer interactions, test drives, click and collect, trade ins and aftersales, and includes advice on staff training, signage, sanitation and protective personal equipment (PPE).
Developed in partnership with dealers and manufacturers, it was designed to complement government guidance for the UK retail sector, to help dealers implement legal requirements as part of individual risk assessments.
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NFDA Chief Executive Sue Robinson, said: "Opening showrooms will allow the economy to get moving again. With confidence in public transport safety at a 20-year low, private transport will play an essential role in enabling people to return to their daily lives.
"It is positive that the automotive industry is proactively working together to resume business as soon as possible in line with the government's guidelines." The guidance will ensure over 4,500 franchised dealerships provide the best possible service in sales and aftersales while protecting staff and guests. Automotive retailers will be working hard to overcome any challenges to safely welcome customers back to the showrooms."
SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said: "It's been a long wait but automotive retailers are ready, willing and able to welcome customers back into showrooms. While click and collect has helped the sector survive, it cannot replace the experience of choosing and test driving a new car in person. Reopening these premises will also boost UK car manufacturing, as the reduced demand caused by their closure has led to months of lower production."
"Consumers returning to showrooms will notice some changes, not just in the updated Covid safety measures, but also in the increasing choice of new car technologies and there are now more green choices than ever before."
It's nowhere near a return to normal as appointments must be made to visit showrooms and masks must be worn, But new SMMT analysis showed customers ready to put up with that will be offered about 460 models, 4,650 standard specifications and an "almost infinite number" of options.
Zero-emission-capable cars, which sweep in short EV range PHEVs, now account for one in three available models.
The industry has warned a full recovery by the end of 2021 "remains highly challenging". New car registrations during Q1 2021 were 37.1% down on the average for 2010-2019 and for levels to return to 'normal' by the end of the year would require a new car delivery every 12 seconds.
The SMMT said the industry had lost GBP22.2bn in turnover from new car registrations since March 2020 and hoped the variety of options now available would stimulate demand.
Hawes said: "We hope today marks the start of that recovery."