After the government confirmed to Car Dealer Magazine that dealers can sell cars online and deliver them during the lockdown, thoughts of the trade are turning now to how it can be done.
Many dealerships are simply not set up for home delivery which brings with it a whole new raft of questions for dealers on how they can get cars to customers’ homes without breaking the rules.
Here’s our guide on what can and can’t be done – and importantly how. For this piece we’re going to assume your website is capable of online sales – if it’s not we’ll have some advice on setting that up very soon.
Can customers pick up a car from the dealership?
What is clear is that currently a ‘click-and-collect’-style pick-up from a dealership isn’t really allowed. As part of the lockdown measures, car showrooms have been told to close and running a pick-up service at a dealership would contravene the rules.
The penalties for this are severe and are being enforced by local councils, which can use the government’s health and safety regulations to prosecute you and force you to comply.
What’s more, the public are encouraged to report businesses they feel are bending the rules, so it’s likely to be a PR disaster too. However, there are arguments that it could be possible – but will be up to dealers to decide. We explain that here.
Surely a click-and-collect-style arrangement is the safest way to do this?
That may be so, but currently it breaks the rules. Dealers have told Car Dealer Magazine that they could easily set up a safe and sanitised handover area at a dealership and offer an appointment based system so customers can collect their cars safely.
However, that is likely to come in the first phase of the lockdown lifting, if lobbying efforts by the industry are successful. In other countries where measures have been eased, these sorts of solutions have been put in place.
There’s no reason you shouldn’t be preparing for this as a stage two, but for now you need to look into home delivery.
We’re not set-up for delivering cars to people’s homes – what can we do?
Firstly, you need to take advice on Distance Selling Regulations as these are onerous and come with added rights for the car buyer, which could cause you problems in the long run. Speak to the experts at Lawgistics or your company lawyers to get the correct terms and conditions in place and procedures.
Can two members of my staff take the customers’ car and then drive back together?
No. That would contravene social distancing regulations as your staff members would have to be in the car together after dropping the customers’ vehicle off.
Trade plate movement companies we have spoken to have said they are not operating in this way because of the risks.
John Deeley, managing director of Vale Fleet Solutions, said: ‘The only way at present is to deliver a vehicle on the back of a truck with one man – this way all the social distancing and hygiene can be adhered to. Any other way, such as a delivery driver that drives the vehicle cannot be done due to the inherent risk.’
David Godber, of ProPlaters, echoed those thoughts, adding: ‘In the world of Covid-19 the industry simply can’t use drivers or “platers” because the minute we do so we’re putting the team in harm’s way as the need for car-sharing to and from pick-up and drop-off locations instantly breaches social distancing requirements.
‘Public transport isn’t an option either as many customers are out of town and aren’t close to public transportation. So, overnight we had to become a vehicle transporter-only business and our fleet of Mercedes car transporters is now at full capacity.’
It’s likely businesses like David’s will be very busy in the coming weeks.
So, cars have to be delivered on a car transporter instead?
Yes, if you’re to deliver cars safely you need to hire a flat-bed truck or car transporter to get that vehicle to a customer’s home.
Godber explained that his firm has had to adapt how they do that too with drivers dedicated to a certain vehicle so there is no cross contamination – and suggests dealers follow suit.
While the government has said home deliveries of cars are fine, they need to be carried out in the safest way possible.
Do I need documentation to say that I am delivering a car?
Yes. Drivers who are delivering cars during this time should carry paperwork from their employer to explain to the police, if they are stopped, that they are on an essential journey – the definition of which includes fulfilling a contractual obligation, which is what a car sale is.
In guidelines issued by the NFDA, members were told that delivery drivers ‘run the high risk of being stopped by the police so should carry documents with them from their employers explaining the journey is for an essential purchase’.
What about car cleaning and sanitisation?
This is vital and you should draw up new rules around how you will safely sanitise a car prior to delivery. Once again, the briefing document for dealers that was shared with Car Dealer Magazine by GardX looks like it covers all these bases.
In the advice GardX suggests dealers:
- Wear gloves
- Sanitise keys at every opportunity
- Place protective covers on the seats
- Sanitise the steering wheel, gear knob, door handles, rear view mirror and any other touch points
The firm also says drivers and dealership staff should be provided with protection kits that include gloves, alcohol wipes, disposable masks and resealable bags to place contaminated equipment in and for storing documents in prior to handover.
GardX has a KleenAir anti-bacterial vehicle treatment system which pumps a mist around a car’s interior, which the firm says kills off 99.9 per cent of bacteria, and says this should be used too. See the short video below for more.
What else do delivery drivers need to consider?
Social distancing is key when the delivery driver hands over the car that has been transported to the customer’s home, as is further sanitisation.
Trucks should carry PPE kits like that outlined above. Antibacterial wipes, hand sanitiser and access to handwashing facilities is vital.
ProPlaters Godber added: ‘All exterior contact surfaces from keys to door handles and fuel filler cap should be cleaned in addition to the steering wheel, control stalks and instrument panel both prior to loading and prior to the delivery handover too.
‘At customer locations we’re actively practising social distancing and we’re conscious the transporter drivers should take care not to share a recently occupied cabin space.’
What about customer signatures for paperwork – can that be carried out?
Most delivery firms have stopped signatures during this time, instead relying on photographic evidence of handover.
Godber added: ‘We have decided to do away with the requirement for signatures that we would normally require, instead relying on our tablet-based photographic records of each vehicle’s condition at the point of collection and delivery.’
For legal documents, a digital signature system could prove a useful solution. It’s worth speaking to your finance providers to see if they can help you here.
Can I charge customers for delivery like this?
You can, but that will be a commercial decision. It could be built into the price of the car or could be charged as a separate line on the invoice. However, we can’t make that decision for you.
Customers are clearly price conscious at the moment so a delivery charge may be painful – especially when the likes of online-only car dealer Cazoo do it for free.
If a customer has already bought and was waiting for delivery until after the lockdown you could contact them and let them know there is now an option for delivery, but you’d have to explain to them that it will cost them.
Sounds like these delivery companies will be busy?
They will be and that could cause the next issue for car dealerships – finding a delivery slot. Just as supermarkets saw a surge in demand for home deliveries, so too could car dealerships.
It’s advisable to speak to a local delivery firm now and arrange a deal before they get swamped. Of course, if you have your own flatbed truck or transporter you’re in luck, but ensure you document clearly the health and safety policies you expect staff to follow.
So in summary, what do dealerships need to consider when delivering a car to a customers’ home?
While it will be a change in the way many dealerships do business, this is an opportunity to start working again, but it needs to be planned and the correct guidelines followed if you’re not to fall foul of the restrictions.
ProPlaters’ Godber laid out this summary for dealers:
- Deliveries by vehicle transporter only
- A one-truck-one-driver rule applied to all car transporters
- Daily cleaning of all truck contact surfaces, external and internal
- Driver cleaning and sanitising kits carried on board
- Cleaning of customers vehicles’ external and internal contact surfaces, including the keys. Cleaning regime should take place at both collection and delivery
- Key and vehicle documentation handover while respecting social distancing guidance
- Photographic records of collections and deliveries and no handover signature requirements
Thanks to GardX’s Victor Coutin, 07780 782670, and David Godber, [email protected], 0203 878 3331