Car dealers in England are reopening their showrooms today after the second national lockdown forced them to operate online only.
Customers will once again be able to visit car dealerships as they begin to operate under the same Covid Secure guidelines they opened under during the summer.
Most car dealerships have managed to continue operations on some level during the 28-day shut down, offering click and collect and home deliveries via their websites.
However, dealerships up and down the country will be delighted that they can once again welcome customers back into showrooms.
November new car orders fell 30 per cent and used car sales declined by 39.5 per cent against the same month last year during the shutdown.
The figures from lead management firm Dealerweb, which studied 800 car dealers, also found that enquiries dropped by a third.
‘It was inevitable that a second national lockdown would have a negative impact on orders,’ said the firm’s MD James Hill.
Car dealers will be hoping there is a bounce in new and used car demand in December, though, traditionally one of the trade’s quietest months.
Bosses Car Dealer spoke to believe there is some pent-up demand out there.
While some buyers were happy to complete a deal remotely, many have stalled a decision until the reopening.
Vertu Motors boss Robert Forrester said it was ‘great to be back in business’ and thanked the Prime Minister Boris Johnson for allowing dealerships to operate again.
What’s allowed in car dealerships in Tier 2 and Tier 3?
- Test drives are available
- Showroom visits allowed (mostly by appointment)
- New car sales allowed
- Used car sales allowed
- Service and MOTs allowed
Many franchised main dealerships are still operating live video appointments for those customers who don’t want to visit showrooms.
Dealer group TrustFord was ‘delighted’ to be reopening showrooms, said CEO and chairman Stuart Foulds in a post on social media.
The group will be continuing to offer video appointments, click and collect and home delivery despite its showrooms across the country being allowed to reopen.
Chorley Group sales and marketing director Adam Turner said that despite the full lockdown they had managed to hit 80 per cent of the sales they achieved in November 2019.
Revealing that Trading Standards had mystery shopped the dealerships five times to ‘catch them out’, the group still managed to ‘adapt’ to the restrictions and continue to sell cars.
He posted on LinkedIn: ‘The pandemic has made the automotive industry and the businesses within it that were clinging on to the past catch up with the rest, but it will not change consumer behaviour completely – embrace change and work with it not against it.’
Independent used car dealerships also adapted quickly to the lockdown restrictions.
Big Motoring World revealed last week that it managed to match last year’s November sales volumes via click and collect alone.
Ben Goodwin, dealer principal of the group’s Enfield site, said: ‘With fantastic growth this year and a record breaking click and collect month behind us we are now looking forward and are hugely excited to be reopening our doors to the public.’
All eyes will now turn to the December figures. Many dealerships are still operating with staff on furlough and the flexible scheme has given dealers the ability to keep costs low in a traditionally quiet month.
One industry expert told Car Dealer: ‘What a God send to be able to furlough staff at a time that is usually quiet anyway. Some dealers we work with are keeping staff on furlough and only bringing them back when demand requires it and are keeping their overheads low over Christmas.’
Most car dealers have managed to weather the pandemic well with listed dealer groups already posting impressive numbers. Despite the lockdown, used car dealer group Motorpoint said last week it had increased profit in the first half of the year.
Privately, some dealers have revealed record years as a combination of lower overheads, government support, huge demand and buoyant used car prices have helped keep margins higher than ever.