Motor dealers are seeking to be part of the first wave of reopening when Covid lockdown restrictions are eased.
Gillian Fanning, president of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) said the motor sector, as essential retailers, has been open for servicing throughout most of the lockdown. “We have shown we can operate very safely for service and repair, ensuring the continuation of our supply chain and our vehicles are safe.
“The fact that people are now more reliant on private cars from a personal safety perspective, we request from the government that we can open our sales operations from the 5th of April, even if this is on a click and collect basis.”
Pointing to a recent national survey which found that 75 per cent of respondents would be comfortable visiting car dealerships or garages when travel restrictions allowed, leading figures in the motor trade say their operations are different from other non-essential retailers.
They highlight the large size of dealerships and the low average footfall, the ability to do business on a strict appointment only basis and the option of displaying cars outside lends itself to social distancing and safe retailing making car sales very low risk.
Brian Cooke, SIMI director general said: “With the improving weather and longer days, car sales can be transacted entirely in an outdoor setting, further reducing the already low risk environment.”
New car sales are currently down 13 per cent on this time last year, with registrations for the first 20 days of March down 31 per cent on the same period in 2020.
Amid growing concerns about the fall in new car sales, Cooke says action by Cabinet is required to prevent further job losses in the motor trade and diminishing exchequer contributions.
“With over 40,000 people employed in the sector, it is crucial to the economy as our industry has already been heavily impacted by the pandemic, with the impact on new car sales last year added to the 2021 shortfall coming in at over € ¤1 billion, of which ¤400 million is lost in Exchequer funding. Our members are ready to re-open their showrooms once conditions allow, but an interim move to a click and collect basis is of vital importance to local businesses and employment.”
Gavin Hydes, chief executive of Joe Duffy Motor Group said: “The additional sales customers visiting our dealerships under click and collect would only be a minimal 10 per cent on existing showroom visits, representing on average of six customers per retailer over the course of a day.
“A significant number of our customers will not conclude the sale until they can view the car physically in person and take an unaccompanied test drive, given the product’s large financial outlay.”