Independent car dealers Jim Reid and Umesh Samani spoke on Car Dealer Live about how a fantastic start to the year had been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
For Samani who owns Specialist Cars of Stoke, ‘March was very good considering we shut down after three weeks’ while Reid of Jim Reid Car Sales explained the irony of struggling to keep stocked up in the month.
‘It was only in the last week before the shutdown that we thought we needed to stop buying. Because of that the bank balance is actually sitting healthier than it would normally in March,’ he said.
At Specialist Cars the lockdown came as quite a shock, said Samani, who had just picked a car up for service and MOT when the prime minister made the announcement.
He also owns a garage next door to his dealership, but decided to close all parts with a mechanic already off for self-isolation. He said: ‘The reality is the staff, the last thing I want is them transmitting the disease. Why risk health and safety?’
Reid had made the decision to shut the business before the official lockdown which he explained helped him manage the process, comparing it to stopping at 30mph rather than 80.
He made the decision to get rid of older stock before the closure, saying: ‘You’ve got to have that liquidity in your business to pay the bills. If money is sitting out on your forecourt then it’s not in the bank.
‘That made me panic. I’m less panicky now because I can see the money back in the bank.’
Both believe that it’ll be a while before the industry is back to any normality, with Samani saying: ‘I think the new normal is at least five or six months away.
He added that consumer confidence will be a big player and that ‘we’ll still be social distancing though, don’t forget that.’
When it comes to used car values falling, Reid commented that when the general public see some dealerships slashing prices they expect it from everyone but that in reality ‘there’s no movement on cars so there’s no movement on prices’.
Samani explained that he had taken three orders from customers during the lockdown with ‘no arguments on price whatsoever’ from any and Reid has taken four so far.
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