Car dealers across the country are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on equipment, signage and promotional material as they get ready to reopen.
One large car dealer group told Car Dealer Magazine it was close to spending £1m on PPE, perspex screens and signage to enable the group to open as soon as the government gives them the nod.
Other dealer groups are spending similar amounts on what they believe could be the steps that would allow them to open, in the next few weeks.
Perspex screens for reception areas, thermometers, gloves, masks and sanitisation products are among the items dealers are snapping up.
Prime minister Boris Johnson will lay out his plans to get the economy moving again and begin easing the lockdown this Sunday, but many dealers are preempting the announcement and getting ready now.
Taking lesson from other retail sites that have been allowed to stay open during the lockdown, rules in place for the workshops that have been running throughout and knowledge gleaned from the leaked guideline documents that are likely to be issued this weekend, dealers have begun to prepare.
Rumours are circulating in the industry that May 18 could be the date dealers are allowed to return to work, which would fall into line with the announcement at the weekend that Irish dealers can get back to work on that date.
Wessex Garages managing director Chris Wiseman – who runs Nissan, Mazda, Kia, Hyundai and Renault dealers – shared pictures of his dealerships preparing for the return to work online.
In a post yesterday, he said: ‘Aftersales teams are back in and the dealerships are prepped and ready. Customer demand is high with no shortage of bookings.
‘Service departments are back open fully on May 11. Our colleagues have really stepped up to make sure we are ready to reopen sales when the time is right. Safe and professional is the only way.’
Wiseman, who will be chatting to us on Car Dealer Live on Tuesday (May 12) shared pictures of dedicated walkways marked out on the showroom floor clearly marking two metres for social distancing, express drop off zones for keys, hand sanitising stations and clear signage.
In the leaked documents, the guidelines are expected to tell car dealers to set up one entry and one exit point to showrooms, desks so staff face away from each other, and ensure there are no pinch points in corridors or lifts.
Staff maybe required to work in ‘red and blue’ teams so there are elements of isolation still carried on and those who can work from home will be told to continue to do so.
However, car sales are likely to be allowed on an appointments basis and customers will have to be carefully managed coming into the showroom to avoid crowding.
Adam Turner, sales and marketing director of Chorley Group, which has showrooms in Lancashire and Wigan for Nissan, Kia, Hyundai and MG, also showed off plans on social media this week.
Turner said: ‘Our aftersales departments are back up and running across nine brands – albeit with a new normal for now and a reduced team.
‘This is stage one and we are back on track thanks to the help of our wonderful team, ensuring we can give confidence to our workforce and anyone who visits.’
Jonathan Bischoff, group MD of JCB Group, which runs dealers in Kent and Sussex for VW Group brands, Citroen and Kia among others, has also begun to reopen sites for servicing in Medway and Rainham.
‘The teams have done a fantastic job and I’m really pleased to say both sites are busy,’ he said.
Until the government unveils the official guidelines, many dealers will be holding off purchasing PPE and other products needed to allow them to get back to business.
However, there is likely to be a rush for certain items – especially perspex screens that are likely to be required around reception and service desks.
Perrys MD Darren Ardron told Car Dealer Live on April 24 that his group had been busy producing screens for its dealerships in house and had taken orders from other dealers.
The advice in the leaked documents – which will be particularly relevant to car dealers – is expected to include for offices:
- Employees for roles critical to business can go in
- Office staff should work at home, though, where possible
- Plans should be made for minimum number of people needed to run the business
- Employees should work facing away from each other and further apart
- Screens should create a physical barrier between people
- Floor tape should be used to mark out 2m distances
- Hot-desking and shared spaces should not be used
- Shared office equipment should be lightly used
- Meetings should be conducted remotely
- Hand sanitiser should be provided
- Meetings should be in well ventilated rooms
- Frequent cleaning
General advice for businesses that car dealerships will want to follow includes:
- Providing additional parking so staff avoid car sharing
- Increasing entry points to reduce pinch points on entry – having one to enter and one to exit where possible
- Handwashing or sanitisation at each entry and exit
- Alternatives to touch based devices
- Storage for staff clothes and bags
- Washing uniforms on site rather than at home
- One way routes around buildings
- Regulating stairs, lifts and corridors
- Staggering break times
- Protective screens for reception areas
In retail environments – like car dealerships – the draft advice includes:
- Defining the number of customers allowed in at one time to ensure 2m spacing can be followed
- Reducing pinch points
- Encouraging customers to visit the showroom alone
- Put in place queuing outside
- Provide clear guidance on the rules upon arrival
- Making someone in charge of social distancing to ensure rules are followed
- Staggered collection times for customers collecting cars
- Setting these up in a no contact manner
And for those who work in vehicles the relevant advice that is likely to be given includes:
- Reducing the number of people at depots or distribution centres
- Loading on to vehicles without interacting with driver
- Avoiding two-person deliveries
- Minimising contact when exchanging documentation
- Physical screening in vehicles where safe
- Making sure vehicles are well ventilated
- Regular cleaning of vehicles
- Non contact deliveries
- maximising electronic paperwork
Car dealers with more than five staff will have to produce a written risk assessment.
There is no guidance yet as to whether face masks or other PPE will be needed, but it is believed guidance on this will follow.
- Join our WhatsApp group to get updates sent straight to your phone. Email us via the website here to get a link to join.