The NFDA has hit back at the Scottish government’s decision to postpone the opening of Scotland’s dealers, calling the decision an ‘unnecessary economic risk’.
In a statement, NFDA (National Franchised Dealers Association) director Sue Robinson (pictured below) said the postponement is costing business financially, and urged the Scottish government to give clarity and engage in dialogue with the automotive industry.
‘Postponing the reopening of car dealerships in Scotland until June 29 will expose many hundreds of businesses and the thousands of people they employ to profound and unnecessary economic risk,’ she said. ‘It is the Scottish government’s responsibility to protect jobs as well as health.’
The NFDA says it has ‘repeatedly’ urged the Scottish government to consider reopening as soon as possible, and says it was expecting showrooms to open again today (June 22).
While reopening today would have been two weeks after Northern Ireland and three weeks after England, it would have put Scottish dealers on an equal footing with showrooms in Wales who were given the green light to open their doors today.
Car Dealer Magazine was the first to report the delay to Scottish dealers reopening, and dealers expressed their anger at the decision.
Volvo dealer and double British Touring Car Champion, John Cleland, told us: ‘We just need to get on with this. England has a one-month headstart on us. I don’t understand the delay.’
He added: ‘It’s madness that garden centres have already been allowed to reopen and yet car dealerships up to 800 square metres can’t – showrooms are more spacious than garden centres!’
In the NFDA statement, Robinson added: ‘This unexpected delay means that our members will have incurred further substantial losses.
‘NFDA recognises the need to protect the health and safety of citizens, but the automotive retail sector has addressed all concerns and was one of the first industries to develop tailored guidance to ensure that rigorous social distancing and hygiene rules will be respected at all times.
‘The combination of low footfall, spacious retail footprint and strict and comprehensive industry guidelines means that showrooms are far safer for staff and customers than any other physical retail environment, including supermarkets and other essential retail segments that have been allowed to stay open throughout the crisis.
‘Showrooms in Scotland are already prepared, with all the protective screens, sanitisers, equipment and social distancing measures in place for an immediate reopening.
‘We urge the Scottish Government to engage with the automotive sector going forward. The lack of clear communication with our industry has meant hundreds of firms that were preparing to open today, have brought staff back from furlough to do so, are now having to shoulder the huge financial burden of a workforce who are not allowed to work’.
Cleland revealed he had brought back furloughed staff in readiness for reopening on June 19, but, like all other dealers, now has to wait until June 29.
The calls from the NFDA follow those from the Scottish Motor Traders Association (SMTA).
‘Firstly, it shows an extreme lack of understanding as to how the retail automotive sector operates and the impacts of late-in-the-day policy changes such as this,’ SMTA chairman, Sandy Burgess, told Car Dealer Magazine.
‘And secondly, it shows a total lack of respect for the industry at all levels, as they have not spoken to or communicated with any business in our sector before reaching this incomprehensible decision!’
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