A click-and-collect-style service that would see dealerships hand over new cars to buyers is the preferred next step to opening up car sales.
After Car Dealer Magazine exclusively revealed yesterday that the government is happy for car dealers to sell cars online and deliver them to buyers’ homes, a number of dealers have said that could prove difficult.
Many dealerships are not set up for home deliveries and the cost and implementation on a large scale would be prohibitive.
When government lockdown restrictions are eased, potentially in waves allowing some businesses to get back to work sooner than others, car dealers are hopeful that a click-and-collect-style plan could see them included in the early stages of retail allowed back to work.
Several manufacturers Car Dealer Magazine has spoken with are planning for similar click-and-collect-style solutions in their dealerships too when the lockdown is partially lifted.
Vertu Motors chief executive Robert Forrester told Car Dealer Magazine that he believed ‘home delivery was not the answer, or as safe or efficient as click and collect’.
He said: ‘Home deliveries are, in my view, largely uneconomic for the large numbers of cars dealerships sell.
‘Moreover, part exchanges add a complexity and risk. It is clear the answer to unlocking greater activity is to allow very controlled deliveries from the closed showrooms, remembering workshops and service reception are open.’
The Independent Motor Dealers Association welcomed the clarification from the government issued to this magazine yesterday, but also said it believed the next step should be a click-and-collect-style solution.
A spokesman for the IMDA said: ‘Dealers cannot arrange the collection of vehicles from premises as yet, but maybe this could be the next stage.
‘Dealers can easily have a “safe area” where the customer is able to collect the fully sanitised car from. The customer could easily do all the paperwork online, transfer the funds, the keys could be ready in the vehicle and the customer drive away without any contact with the sales person.’
This was a view echoed by Neil McCue, chief operating officer for Snows Motor Group, who told Car Dealer Live on Monday that he believed this was the safest solution too.
He said his group’s dealerships already have handover bays that could be easily sectioned off, sanitised and made safe for customers arriving on an appointment basis.
And today on Car Dealer Live, Perrys managing director Darren Ardron said that it was still too early to take the home deliveries jump because of health and safety concerns as well as uncertainty, adding that the industry needed to wait another two to three weeks because of where the UK currently was with regards to the virus.
He said: ‘I’d be hugely concerned about the welfare of our staff, and I’m a bit more sceptical about it being ready to go just yet. We need to sweat this one out. For me, it’s not quite the right time to do it yet.’
He agreed that the click-and-collect model had to be looked at, and said that although Perrys didn’t previously have a click online facility before now, it should be ready this week.
In Germany, car dealers were allowed back to work as part of the first phase of the government lockdown partially lifting there.
The SMMT has called for car dealerships to be included in the early stages of the lockdown lifting here.
Chief executive of the SMMT Mike Hawes told Car Dealer Magazine: ‘Reopening car dealerships is a crucial first step to restarting the market and getting the wider economy back on its feet.
‘To drive manufacturing and wider economic growth, we need to see car dealerships in the first wave of retail reopenings. When that time comes and it is safe to do so, the market will return to attracting buyers to showrooms with the latest, safest and cleanest products.’
With the chief medical officer yesterday confirming that social distancing measures are likely to be in place until the end of the year, these new solutions to handovers will be vital if car dealers are to get back to work.