In an official statement issued to Car Dealer Magazine yesterday (23 April 2020), a spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said: “We have asked non-essential shops like car dealerships and showrooms in England to close, unless they provide urgent car repairs and other necessary services.
“They are all able to continue to sell cars remotely and deliver cars, as long as they follow our clear guidance from Public Health England to protect both employees who cannot work from home and their customers.”
The BEIS spokesperson reiterated the Chief Medical Officer’s advice that if you cannot work from home “then you can still travel to work”.
The spokesperson added: ‘Critical workers are those who can still take their children to school or childcare. This critical worker definition does not affect whether or not you can travel to work – if you are not a critical worker, you may still travel to work provided you cannot work from home.’
The NFDA issued guidelines earlier this week to its members stating they believed dealers could deliver cars during the lockdown. While the SMMT told Car Dealer Magazine that it also believed ‘deliveries are allowed if appropriate social distancing and hygiene measures are in place’.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “It remains a decision for each company based on their own unique circumstances and ability to comply with the requirements, especially in terms of vehicle delivery.
“When the time is right, reopening car showrooms will be a crucial first step to restarting the market and getting the wider economy back on its feet. We need to see car dealerships in the first wave of retail re-openings.”
The government spokesperson said guidance issued for the manufacturing industry would be helpful for car dealers too.
That advice, detailed on the government website concerning social distancing in the workplace during the coronavirus crisis, says:
“Where it is not possible to follow the social distancing guidelines in full in relation to a particular activity, you should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to continue to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between staff.”
The advice adds:
- If you decide the work should continue, staff should work side by side or facing away from each other rather than face-to-face if possible.
- Dealers should increase the frequency of cleaning procedures, pausing in the day if necessary for staff to wipe down workstations with disinfectant.
- Dealers should assign staff to the same shift teams to limit social interaction.
- Dealers should not allow staff to congregate at break times and staggered break times should be considered so that staff can continue to practice social distancing.
- Dealers should communicate to all staff that they should wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or more at the beginning and end of every break, when they arrive at work and before they leave.
- To help with handwashing, dealers should consider adding additional pop-up handwashing stations or facilities, providing soap, water and/or hand sanitiser.
- When entering and leaving, dealers should ensure their workforce stays two metres apart as much as possible.
- And to protect staff, dealers should remind colleagues daily to only come into work if they are well and no one in their household is self-isolating.
While it is clear the government is encouraging home deliveries as part of this, there will be questions from the industry if this means showrooms can offer a click-and-collect appointment style handover process.
From what Car Dealer Magazine understands, this would not be allowed as the government has mandated car showrooms to be closed.
A spokesman for Lawgistics, the legal firm for the motor trade, said this clarification will come as welcome relief to business owners who felt there was a moral issue with delivering cars during the lockdown.
The spokesman said: ‘This clarification can only be welcomed. By all accounts, the regulations unambiguously require car showrooms to cease business and provision of services.
“Although Lawgistics understood that car dealers, as long as their forecourts and showrooms remained closed, could carry on business if orders were distantly placed. This clarification will bring a relief to many car dealers.
‘Dealers can now carry on selling cars under this exception safe in the knowledge that by doing so they will not contravene the lockdown regulations.”