The Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) is urging the government to reconsider its ban on car dealers offering click and collect.
CEO of Joe Duffy Motor Group Gavin Hydes, and chairperson of the SIMI franchise committee, said he is ‘urgently requesting’ the government reinstate click-and-collect and unaccompanied test drives this week.
He added that without this is it will ‘inevitably result in further job losses’.
Ireland has so far spent all of 2021 under its top tier Level 5 restrictions and has plans to loosen these rules on April 5.
Under the current guidelines, all non-essential retail must stay closed without click-and-collect. Car dealers fall under these rules while parts of the business have been allowed to remain open for servicing and repairs.
SIMI has reaffirmed its belief that car dealerships are a safe environment to do business in.
Hydes explained that in reality by adding click-and-collect into their business the footfall would only increase by 10 per cent.
In a statement he said: ‘The additional sales customers visiting our dealerships under click and collect would only be a minimal 10 per cent on existing showroom visits, representing on average of six customers per retailer over the course of a day.
‘A significant number of our customers will not conclude the sale until they can view the car physically in person and take an unaccompanied test drive, given the product’s large financial outlay.
‘I urgently request that the government support our Industry by announcing modifications to the restrictions this week and reinstate click and collect and unaccompanied test drives.
‘As the industry waits with bated breath for the cabinet’s update this week, we believe that the government’s failure to act on this will inevitably result in further job losses as motor retailers will be unable to retain all of their people.’
Recent data from market research agency Behaviours & Attitudes showing 75 per cent of people surveyed said they would be comfortable visiting car dealerships or garages.
SIMI said that retail in the motor industry is ‘different from other non-essential retail’. It explained that the large size of dealerships, low average footfall, ability to do business on a strict appointment only basis and the option of displaying cars outside lends itself to social distancing and safe retailing making car sales very low risk.
Gillian Fanning, president of SIMI and director of parts company Serfac Ltd, said: ‘Our industry, as essential retailers, has been open for servicing throughout most of the lockdown.
‘We have shown we can operate very safely for service and repair, ensuring the continuation of our supply chain and our vehicles are safe.
‘The fact that people are now more reliant on private cars from a personal safety perspective, we request from the government that we can open our sales operations from the April 5, even if this is on a click and collect basis.
‘The reopening of our sales operations is of critical importance to our industry and its related sectors.
‘We believe that we can make a positive impact on the economy for the rest of 2021.’
Brian Cooke, SIMI director general, agreed with this view and said: ‘Car retailers have invested heavily to minimise the risk of Covid spreading, and the large showrooms and low transaction levels allow for social distancing well beyond the two-metre recommendation.
‘With the improving weather and longer days, car sales can be transacted entirely in an outdoor setting, further reducing the already low risk environment.
‘Balanced action by cabinet is required to protect the future of our Industry, prevent further job losses and diminishing exchequer contributions.
‘With over 40,000 people employed in the sector, it is crucial to the economy as our industry has already been heavily impacted by the pandemic, with the impact on new car sales last year added to the 2021 shortfall coming in at over €1bn (£861m), of which €400m (£344m) is lost in exchequer funding.
‘Our members are ready to reopen their showrooms once conditions allow, but an interim move to a click and collect basis is of vital importance to local businesses and employment.’
Paddy Magee, country operations director for Renault Group and chairperson of SIMI distributors committee, added: ‘Retailers around the country have, from the start of the pandemic, invested heavily in measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 adhering to HSE and HSA guidelines.
‘Showrooms are a very low risk environment for our staff and customers due to the size of premises and the ability to work by appointment only.
‘We really hope that restrictions will ease next month and that the motor business can return to more normal levels once the health situation allows so that we can protect long term employment and local businesses.’
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