Vehicle auction houses have been telling Car Dealer Magazine of their plans to reopen their centres.
The lockdown in March saw auctions go wholly online, but they are among the wave of non-essential retail businesses included in the timeline set out by Boris Johnson on May 25 that are being allowed to open their doors again from June 15, so long as the government’s five tests are met and they follow the Covid-19 secure guidelines to protect staff and public.
They must have completed a risk assessment in consultation with trade union representatives or workers, and be confident about managing the risks.
Car dealerships are being allowed to reopen from June 1, and this second wave of reopening non-essential retail is seen as the next step towards restoring livelihoods and restarting the economy.
Manheim has 15 auction centres in the UK, and a spokesman for its owner, Cox Automotive UK, said: ‘Reopening of dealerships is also key for us as a source of demand and vehicle supply. We have been trading with online-only sales during lockdown but other restrictions on vehicle collections and deliveries have been a constraint.’
He wouldn’t be drawn on when precisely its centres would reopen and said buyers were being encouraged to stick with online bidding for the time being.
‘We are now ramping up our Simulcast programme which broadcasts physical auction sales online to account holders,’ he told Car Dealer.
‘Simulcast enables buyers to transact as if they were in the auction hall. We have been very encouraged with the results from all our online channels over the last few weeks. We are encouraging buyers to continue using our Simulcast service.
‘It is hard to manage a physical auction environment – unlike other forms or retail you cannot use a queuing system approach when there is a timed auction going on. We don’t want the industry to take a step back and for physical auctions to be considered a “mass participation” activity.’
The spokesman added: ‘Our approach throughout the crisis has been to adhere to government guidelines and protect our people and our customers. We are investing in our locations to make sure the right measures are in place to support social distancing, and we are also training our people.’
Aston Barclay told Car Dealer that it planned to open its six centres as soon as possible while ensuring it met all safety requirements for staff and customers, having worked on the specifics both internally and with the National Association of Motor Auctions (NAMA).
The Aston Barclay spokesman added: ‘We have already done a lot of work in the background to enable us to implement safety measures, and in the interim our online programme is working well and we are building the volumes of vehicles being sold through these channels.’
Car Dealer also contacted BCA, which runs 23 centres, but is yet to hear back.
In the meantime, the NAMA said members had enjoyed ‘buoyant results’ from online auctions across all automotive sectors, with the numbers taking part increasing daily.
NAMA head Louise Wallis said: ‘Through the period of lockdown, members have adapted their businesses to provide customers with the chance to continue to buy and sell vehicles whilst complying with current government guidance.
‘Although restrictions remain in place keeping auction houses closed until 15 June, online auctions are permitted, and our industry is very much alive. Seeing members adopt industry-approved processes ensuring that safety and social distancing measures are adhered to is extremely positive.’
Derren Martin, head of UK valuations UK for Cap HPI, who appeared on Car Dealer Live on May 27, said: ‘In our view, used vehicles sales do not work without vehicle auctions – they are the stock market of the motor industry and custodians, as currently seen, of a resilient marketplace.
‘Although they are handling lower volumes of vehicles at present, stock keeps turning, and they provide invaluable data and are most importantly a proven secure method of remarketing vehicles.
‘They offer every channel at every level of the remarketing service, including collection, delivery, vehicle storage and refurbishment and body shops. They have adapted very quickly over the last few weeks to an ever-changing landscape.’
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