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Industry must remain cautious to avoid a second lockdown, says Horizon Magna Motor Group CEO

Time 1 year ago

Chief executive of Horizon Magna Motor Group Tony Roberts has warned the industry must be ‘cautious’ coming out of the Covid-19 crisis to avoid a second lockdown.

Roberts appeared on Car Dealer Live yesterday, as the reduction in social distancing was announced by Boris Johnson. He expressed his concerns about not only the investment dealers have put into ensuring a two-metre distance in showrooms, but also said that if car dealers can keep the distance they should.

The Horizon Magna Motor boss said: ‘My own view on that would be that we’ve put such a huge amount of effort into reducing the number of cars in showrooms, creating one way systems, marking the showroom floor, marking the windows, masks, gloves, hand sanitiser in all the appropriate places, at every entry and exit, and I’ve been to all of the dealerships checking that we meet that criteria. I actually think we should carry on with that until we see this thing go a little bit further. 


‘I understand that it would be incredibly hard for a pub to meet the two-metre social distancing, but if we’re talking about showroom sizes of 400m2 and the number of people that we have visiting our showrooms, I think we can cope with the two-metre rule pretty comfortably without causing the customer any anxiety issues and there’s no reason to do so.’

He added: ‘I think we’ve got to be very careful how we come out of this to try and avoid a second spike, because the last thing any of us need is to go back into a lockdown situation again. 

‘We’re an industry that works on very small margins. We’re an industry that’s been burning money since April to an extent, depending on how established you are. For us to go into another lockdown situation, I think it could sadly be the death of a number of retailers. Not even specifically talking about the motor industry here.’

On the show, Roberts explained how going into the lockdown he thought ‘how long can we survive this?’


He said: ‘To go from £7.5m a month turnover to a lockdown where you turnover nothing – but you’ve still got overheads and that’s the difficulty.’


Roberts said that he’s positive about the future and has been speaking to his HR manager every day. So far he’s been able to bring back 82 per cent of staff and has less than 40 furloughed as of June 23. 

Since retail outlets across most sectors reopened last week, he explained that the number of customers had drastically increased meaning he needed more staff on site to manage more walk-in customers. 

He said: ‘That has been an enormous challenge. Typically the motor industry converts 30 per cent to come to their dealerships. During the first two weeks since reopening, we saw our conversion rates go up to more than 60 per cent because the people making appointments were serious. 

‘Now we’ve seen the footfall has almost doubled in the last week and we’re having to bring more people off furlough to cope with that because the level of staffing we had up to that point wasn’t sufficient to service and to greet those customers in the appropriate way.’

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To watch the interview in full click play at the top of this page. 

Coming up this week on Car Dealer Live we also have:

  • Wednesday: Lipscomb Cars MD Peter Barnes
  • Thursday: Peter Quinn, Emerald House of Cars
  • Friday: Sophus 3’s Scott Gairns

You can watch all of our Car Dealer Live interviews by clicking here.

Rebecca Chaplin's avatar

Rebecca has been a motoring and business journalist since 2014, previously writing and presenting for titles such as the Press Association, Auto Express and Car Buyer. She has worked in many roles for Car Dealer Magazine’s publisher Blackball Media including head of editorial.

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