Covid protocols at a car dealershipCovid protocols at a car dealership


Dealers to continue as normal despite ‘Plan B’ announcement, say experts

  • Plan B Covid announcement expected to have minimal effect on car dealers
  • Government last night released new measures advising people to work from home
  • IMDA says guidance does not apply to dealers, who can continue to work as normal

Time 12:33 pm, December 9, 2021

Car dealers will continue to work as normal despite yesterday’s (Dec 8) announcement that the government is introducing ‘Plan B’ Covid restrictions.

That’s the verdict of the Independent Motor Dealers Association chairman, Umesh Samani, who expects businesses to be largely unaffected.

The headline news from the bombshell announcement was that, from next week, people should once again work from home ‘where possible’.

However, with dealers needing to be on the shop floor to sell cars, it is expected to have a minimal impact on the industry.

It could affect some staff at larger franchised dealers but Samani does not see many firms instructing people to work from home.

Guidance on masks remains the same, with face coverings mandatory in all showrooms after another announcement on November 27.

Dealers are also being encouraged to put other Covid measures in place, if they haven’t already, such as sanitising stations.

Samani told Car Dealer: ‘In all fairness I don’t think a huge amount will change for dealers because the way we operate is that people have to be physically in the showroom.

‘It might affect some staff at some of the bigger dealer groups and PLCs but even then I can’t see them sending employees home.

‘Just speaking personally, I left all my Covid signs up anyway so nothing really changes from that point of view.

‘We have carried out a process that works so why change that now?’

Motor trade legal firm, Lawgistics, agrees with Samani that dealers should be free to continue as they are, despite last night’s announcement.

Nona Bowkis, a solicitor with the firm, said: ‘Part of Plan B was already put in place at the end of November in regard to mandating the wearing of face masks in retail environments.

‘Last night Johnson added the other planned measures which were to introduce the “Covid passport” system in certain settings and asking people to work from home if they can.

‘New legislation (The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings) (England) Regulations 2021) was passed in November to enable people to be fined for breaking the rules around mask wearing.

‘However, the work from home message is purely guidance and not law and so employers are free to make their own reasonable decisions in regard to their employees.’

Industry in strong position to bounce back from measures

Auto Trader has also commented on the news, saying the industry is in a strong position to bounce back from the new measures.

Data from the online retailer shows that at the end of the most recent period of severe restrictions back in April 2021, when forecourts were closed apart from click and collect, retailers still reported doing more than 90 per cent of ‘normal trading volumes’.

Consumer demand for both new and used cars has also remained strong since then,  with audience on Auto Trader up 18 compared to the same time in 2019.

Bosses have said that retailers should ensure covid safety measures are present on forecourts and visible online to enable consumers to do as much of the car buying journey as possible remotely and as safely as possible.

Ian Plummer, Auto Trader’s commercial director, said: ‘This is the news that we were all hoping wouldn’t come.

‘However, the response of automotive retailers in previous times of tougher restrictions gives us confidence for the coming weeks.

‘In fact, in April 2021 when far stricter restrictions were in place, which required forecourts to remain closed but click & collect was allowed, used car transactions were down by just six per cent on the same period in 2019.

‘The industry was able to successfully manage those restrictions because retailers were quick to adopt to online retailing and took steps to enable consumers to complete as much of the car buying journey as remotely as possible.

‘This included offering click & collect and home delivery services, as well as personal video walk-throughs, and scheduled appointments.

‘We would highly recommend that retailers continue to make use of these services, ensuring they are featured prominently on their adverts, in their marketing and across their digital forecourts.’

He added: ‘There are plenty of other reasons for retailers to remain confident, not least the strong levels of consumer demand we’re tracking in the market.

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‘We have not seen any change in this since the news last night.

Coupled with the broader positive economic outlook, we don’t see that the government’s latest measures should deter consumers from buying a car.

‘The most successful retailers over the coming weeks will be those that make it as easy, and as safe as possible for them to do so.’

Jack Williams's avatar

Jack joined the Car Dealer team in 2021 as a staff writer. He previously worked as a national newspaper journalist for BNPS Press Agency. He has provided news and motoring stories for a number of national publications including The Sun, The Times and The Daily Mirror.

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