Since the Covid-19 lockdown came into force a debate has been raging within the motor trade regarding the rights and wrongs of car dealers continuing to operate remotely. The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) to National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) and The Independent Motor Dealers Association, organisations and trade bodies have all had their say.
The issue centred around the seemingly contradictory instructions from the UK’s government to only complete essential journeys but to also continue working even if you can’t do so from home. Traders question whether a car purchase counted as essential? Others felt car dealers were at risk of putting an additional strain on the NHS.
Yesterday the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) finally confirmed to industry publication Car Dealer Magazine that although they, ‘Have asked non-essential shops like car dealerships and showrooms in England to close, unless they provide urgent car repairs and other necessary services.” firms can, “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.’
This is understandably great news for many traders who are incredibly eager to remain in operation. It would seem that with much more time on their hands than usual, large sections of the public are taking the opportunity to research a new vehicle purchase. With demand relatively high many car dealers are opting to sell online and then delivering those vehicles.
Those who had continued to trade in the abesence of the clarification on the basis that with appropriate safeguards in place the risks should be minimal and that their need to generate income was crucial, will feel vidicated.
So as the government stated, the key point is that, if you are going to continue trading remotely it needs to be done as safely as possible.
How to Safely Deliver a Vehicle During the Covid 19 Crisis
Organising for a vehicle to be delivered on a flatbed truck is probably the best way to safeguard those in the supply chain and the customer. That might not be an option for various reasons. If a flatbed is out of the question then the following checklist should be reviewed before each delivery is made:
- Vehicles will require disinfecting thoroughly before and upon arrival at the customers delivery address, with all touch point areas suitably cleaned down.
- Vehicle inspections should be carried out at a safe social distance . You may wish to use a video calling platform to assist the process instead of performing it in person.
- Provision of keys in a contactless fashion should be arranged before setting off.
- With the practicalities of adhering to the above processes at a remote location in mind, you may wish to suspend accepting of vehicles in part exchange from the public. If not the provision of PPE may be required for those completing the return leg with the vehicle.
- It may be advisable to supply drivers with a letter stating the journey is essential in the continued running of your business.
Advertising to your customers that you’re adhering to these practices will surely give them greater confidence when deciding whether to complete a potential purchase.
How Can Your Motor Trade Business Prepare For Sustained Social Distancing?
Its likely even when the lockdown ends that certain requirements will remain in force for quite some time. Many car dealers will also be looking to the future and whether the Covid 19 crises will have sped up a shift in the way in which we trade.
Below is a list of possible actions should you be considering for when your premises reopens:
- Implementation of appropriate health and safety measures. If you’re performing deliveries then you should have suitable social distancing and have appropriate hygiene measures in place for this activity. If you allow visitors to your premises after the lockdown is lifted then you should display signs regarding social distancing practices and place floor markings that encourage the maintaining of a 2 meter gap near reception desks where queues may form. Consideration will also need to be given for the training for staff members and how working practices can be adapted to ensure their risk of infection is minimised. This could include provision of face masks, hand sanitiser, reduced numbers working each shift to allow sufficient space, prevention of groups gathering during breaks, staff to remain at home if they feel unwell, perspex screens etc
- Can test drivers will be best carried out unaccompanied for social distancing reasons? This will contravene the requirements of most insurance policies. Therefore you may need to contact your insurer to see if they will permit test drives of this nature given the circumstances. Obviously touch points in the vehicle will require appropriate cleaning post the test drive to ensure safety.
- A workable online e-commerce sales solution – If you’ve not got one already then it could be a challenge to set one up from scratch in a short turn around. However alternative simple solutions could be put in place such as a Paypal facility to “buy it now” or to trade via Ebay. The customer journey could be refined over time with the likes of Gforces offer trade specific an online sales solution.
- Careful consideration should be given to distance selling regulations, which protect the consumer, will need to be considered carefully. For example customers could have the right to cancel the contract for UP TO A YEAR after delivery if they are not advised of the right to cancel the contract. Failure to adhere to the regulations could result in car dealers facing prosecution by Trading Standards.
The coronavirus lockdown has thrown up many dilemmas and challenges to business owners. Even with clarification from goverment many will prefer from a moral point of view to remain at home. However we will not judge anyone that continues to trade as long as they take every precaution within reason to protect not only their own safety but the lives of others as well.
The Covid 19 crises is likely to accelerate a shift in the way in which we not only buy and sell cars as a nation but how we interact and behave socially. We hope that the above information has helped provoke some thoughts for motor trade business owners regarding potential actions that might need to be taken in light of the long term consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. Please feel free to share your thoughts on the subject with us on social media.