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How long will car dealers be closed due to coronavirus?

Time 3:49 pm, March 28, 2020

How long will this lockdown keep car dealerships closed is a question baffling those in the automotive industry and the general public.

The problem is no one really knows, but here we’ve looked at the picture from around the world to give it our best guess.

Right now the important thing is to stay home, save lives and protect the NHS – but the longer the lockdown continues, the more people will be asking ‘when will we get back to normal’?

We’ve spoken to a number of dealership groups in the past few days, and other industry experts, to give us our best guess at how long this shut down will last.

How long will car dealerships be closed for due to Covid-19?

Currently, as we write on March 28, it looks like dealerships could be closed for THREE MONTHS. 

As efforts to contain the coronavirus and relieve pressure on the NHS has brought retail to a standstill, it would be highly unlikely for car dealers to be back up and running before mid-June.

Most dealerships closed on March 23 – with only some workshops and garages remaining open – and three months from that date would be around June 15.

ASE chairman Mike Jones said he thinks at least the start of May:

‘Personally I think showrooms should plan to be closed until at least the start of May. Realistically I think it is likely to be longer than that, if the experience we have seen in Italy and France is replicated in the UK. We may be able to accelerate this if we see production of the antibody test in addition to temperature testing of staff and customers.’

David Kendrick, partner at UHY Hacker Young, added:

‘It’s a very fine balance between opening too early and being socially irresponsible. Some businesses are opening service to key workers and others are closed completely so a very mixed approach currently. The problem is ensuring the social distancing of two metres is observed at all times to avoid any risk to employees or customers.

‘How long until it returns to normality? Who knows, but looking at other countries I think it could easily be six-10 weeks but I really hope for everyone it isn’t as long as this. Overheads are significant even with all of the government subsidies available so it will really start to hurt businesses if it stretches any further out than that.’

Why do we think lockdown of car dealerships could last three months? 

Well, the current government support packages announced for furloughed workers and the self employed lasts the same period and it would be sensible to assume this is linked to how long the government expects most of the economy to be in hibernation.

More: How do you furlough staff – all you need to know

More: What financial support is there to help the self employed?

In most stock market announcements, dealer groups didn’t mention when they thought they’d open again but from the conversations Car Dealer Magazine has had with the bosses of many, they are estimating a three-month closure at least.

In Friday’s Car Dealer Live interview, Marshall Motor Group’s Daksh Gupta told us he expected – and his team was planning for – a shutdown to last three months.

Have car dealerships reopened in Wuhan, China?

No, not yet, but there are some positive signs. In Wuhan, where the coronavirus originated, there are moves today, March 28, to lift some restrictions. But car dealerships still remain closed to physical visits.

The city was first put into total lockdown on January 23, after detecting its first case of coronavirus Covid-19 on December 31.

Now, some 14 weeks later, restrictions are slowly starting to be eased. As of today, some metro services were restarted and the borders and roadblocks lifted. There is no idea when retail shops will be allowed to fully open again at this time.

More: How can a car dealership keep running during the lock down?

However, the 14-week shutdown in Wuhan was very draconian, probably far more severe than that which we are experiencing in the UK. Authorities stopped people entering or leaving the city, families were confined to their homes and only essential stores were allowed to stay open. The UK’s current restrictions are more relaxed.

Wuhan will not let people leave the city until April 8.

Are car dealerships still operating when they are closed during the coronavirus?

During this time some car dealerships are still taking calls and operating online. However, with restrictions on deliveries of cars it is incredibly difficult. Our advice would be to call your local dealer or enquire online as to what their situation is. Many have taken the decision to furlough their entire staff and shut completely so it really is on a case-by-case basis.

When will the UK government review shop closures and allow shops and car dealers to open again?

In the official announcement, made when it ordered non-essential retail to be closed for business on March 23, officials said this would be reviewed in three weeks time – that’s April 13.

However, looking at the length of shut downs in Europe – especially Spain and Italy – its highly probable things will last well beyond that.

In Italy, all businesses, bar pharmacies and food stores, were closed on March 12 – and that included car dealerships. It was reviewed this week on March 25, but the country still remains in stringent lockdown.

How long will car factories be shut down and not producing cars due to coronavirus?

Almost all UK car factories have closed and paused production – with Nissan, Toyota, BMW and Honda all temporarily shutting their factories here.

BMW said it would close its Mini plant at Cowley for four weeks until April 17 when it shut on March 23.

However, there is some light in the fact FCA has restarted production in its Atessa factory in Italy, two weeks after shutting. It has deep cleaned the site and cut workers by around 45 per cent. Ferrari has said it will resume production on April 14.

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However the wider problem with factories is access to parts. Supply chains across the world have been disrupted and that has a knock on effect in making cars.

VW has managed to restart production in China with the exemption of two factories.

We will update this post as and when the situation changes. Last updated: Saturday, March 28, 1539.

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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