Another day, another TV appearance by the prime minister. And the Covid-19 announcement on March 23 was perhaps the most dramatic yet, effectively placing the whole country on lockdown.
Here, our friends at Lawgistics answer a few of your most pressing questions about what this means for the motor trade – as even those of us who might have been in denial about the scale of the problem start to realise the gravity of the situation.
What does the announcement mean for my business?
In short, car showrooms must close. Many dealerships will operate a servicing department alongside their car sales business, and the positive news is that these businesses can remain open.
The guidance for those ‘garages’ asks that:
- There is a distance of two metres between customers and ‘shop assistants’ (presumably mechanics / receptionists etc).
- People should enter only in small groups to ensure spaces are not crowded.
- Queues should be controlled outside premises that remain open.
What about online car sales? Can they still go ahead?
The guidance says that online retail is still open. Legally, we see no reason why you cannot still sell vehicles if customers are willing to buy – in fact, the government would encourage it!
Advertising on sites such as Facebook and Auto Trader should still be possible and the transfer of money can of course still take place. But there are practical issues to consider – which may well prove prohibitive.
What might these issues be?
Customers realistically cannot test-drive or view a vehicle on your premises before deciding to buy. If they are happy to buy at a distance (as many are), government guidance suggests that ‘postal and delivery services will run as normal’ so presumably if delivery companies are happy to operate, then cars can be taken to customers at their homes.
Delivery in person by a sales executive is probably not an acceptable option, however, given that all individuals should only be leaving their homes for ‘food, health reasons or essential work’.
Also – how would your delivery driver travel back to their home or workplace once they had taken the vehicle to its new owner? Deliveries of takeaway food can continue, but it is more likely to be the ‘food’ exemption keeping that as a viable option.
Distance selling raises its own issues, doesn’t it?
Yes. If you do conduct any distance sales, you may wish to contact experts like Lawgistics who helped us pull this together for advice first to ensure all is in order. We are exceptionally busy with our calls at the moment so email advice on specific sales is preferred.
If you have physical handovers yet to take place for sales concluded prior to today, you could try to think outside the box. We have heard of businesses filming virtual handover videos, sending those to customers and leaving the vehicle outside their premises with the key in a lock box with a code, for example.
What happens if I try to bend the rules and just carry out a normal handover under the radar?
Businesses operating in contravention of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closures) Regulations 2020 will be committing an offence. Trading standards and environmental health officials will be monitoring compliance. Businesses who fail to comply will be subject to prohibition notices and unlimited fines. You have been warned!