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CAR showrooms can reopen from today in England if they meet the COVID-19 guidelines to protect staff and customers.

Dealers have been working hard to prepare their premises in line with the Government and industry guidelines to ensure the safety of staff and customers when reopening.

NFDA and SMMT have produced industry guidelines covering the entire customer experience from retail to aftersales. Cars will be cleaned and disinfected thoroughly, dealerships will see one-way systems, multiple sanitising stations and protective screens

In Northern Ireland, car showrooms will be allowed to reopen next Monday, 8 June, while in Scotland and Wales there is no certainty yet.

Sue Robinson, Director of the NFDA, said, “Franchised retailers have taken extensive steps adhering to both the Government and NFDA / SMMT industry guidelines.

“Businesses have been working hard to put all necessary measures in place to ensure the safety of staff and guests, which is the number one priority.

“Many of us need cars to get back to work, especially as more people try to avoid public transport. Cars play a key role in our society and it is positive that the automotive retail sector can now reopen.

From our perspective, giving an insight from a used dealership, we purchase most of our stock from Auctions, which have all been closed. This has had a huge impact on the few cars that we have been able to sell since lockdown to key workers. This has left us with a very empty showroom.

Click4Reg.co.uk reported that used car specialist CarwiseUK has scaled down the number of cars on show and this is what all the other used car showrooms will also be experiencing.

How will safety standards be maintained?

  • Non-contact delivery.
  • All vehicles sanitised prior to delivery, making sure that all surfaces, steering wheel, clutch, door handles are wiped down prior to the customer touching the car.
  • Gloves always worn and frequently changed throughout the day to prevent spread of germs. Masks worn too, with the 2m distancing with customers.
  • Hand sanitisers located at points around showrooms.
  • Bank transfers with no cash to eliminate contact.

If a customer wants to test drive a vehicle, we allow them to drive the car without us in it, again adhering to the social distancing rules. Trade plates are to be used. Once a vehicle has been tested, it is then sanitised again.

CarwiseUK said The industry has to remain positive to drive business. It has seen a lot of interest via social media platforms and is optimistic that by maintaining new regulations and rules, it can keep the business running successfully.

Levels of digital inquiries for new and used cars spiked in late May according to lead management business Dealerweb.

Digital inquiries into dealers across the UK during May were only 16.5% behind 2019 levels. It marked a significant improvement from April, which saw a drop of 61.5% on 2019.

Dealerweb Managing Director James Hill said: “It is clear that digital channels are leading the way as buyers start to think about their next vehicle purchase.

“There is no doubt that dealers will need to ramp up all aspects of the digital customer journey to maximize conversion rates and ensure a great customer experience is maintained.”

Levels of telephone inquiries have not recovered at the same pace despite many dealerships staffing customer service lines. April saw a 95.5% decline in inquiries against 2019 and May experienced an 80% drop.

Dealerweb research has previously indicated that 49% of buyers are more likely to complete a vehicle purchase if they receive a response to an online inquiry within one hour. 25% of buyers said they expected a dealer to respond in under 30 minutes.

Hill added: “Our latest analysis shows that real demand is building and dealers vitally need the right systems in place to maximize on conversion rates in the appointment only, social distancing environment.”

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