Car showrooms in Scotland have been given permission to let customers in to complete click-and-collect purchases – but by appointment only.
The Scottish government confirmed the move in a letter received today (Feb 23) by the National Franchised Dealers Association.
It comes as Nicola Sturgeon announced details of how Scotland will emerge from lockdown, with the stay-at-home order expected to be lifted from April 5.
The letter from Jamie Hepburn, the Scottish minister for business, fair work and skills, says ‘accessing the showroom to conclude the purchasing of the vehicle would be permissible at this time using an appointment system to manage customer numbers to as few in the showroom at any given time’.
He said that ideally it should only be one customer at a time. Face coverings must be worn and social distancing also needs to be in place.
Hepburn added: ‘As much of the purchase as possible should be completed online or by phone to ensure as little time as possible is spent in the showroom.
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‘What is not permissible is for potential customers to come into the showroom to browse and to stay for any longer than is absolutely necessary to complete the purchase.’
The letter also emphasises that for the time being ‘people should only legitimately be leaving their homes for an essential reason which will ensure that they, their homes and occupants and their means of transportation can be maintained in a safe, secure way’.
NFDA chief executive Sue Robinson said: ‘Following our requests, it is extremely positive that the Scottish government has confirmed that amendments to the current operation of click-and-collect for dealerships in Scotland mean that accessing the showroom to conclude the purchasing of the vehicle would be permissible using an appointment system.
‘We thank the minister for considering our suggestions and enabling dealers to better serve their customers.
‘Our members continue to work incredibly hard to follow Covid-secure guidelines and ensure that staff and customers are kept safe.’
Government officials are also going to ‘give…serious consideration’ to the NFDA’s plea to allow unaccompanied test drives, saying the proposition ‘has merit’.
Jim Reid, director of Kintore-based Jim Reid Vehicle Sales, gave the news a guarded welcome, highlighting the mixed message.
‘Although being absolutely delighted with the news that the NFDA has received this notification from the Scottish government, there does seem to be a bit of conflict,’ he told Car Dealer.
‘The “Stay At Home” message that relates to the current state of level 4 lockdown in Scotland is still active, therefore we need to understand better what is classed as an essential journey.
‘Despite this, we welcome this warmly as the beginning of the end of the restriction for car dealers in Scotland, as we do believe that car dealerships in general – both inside and outdoor car lots – are, in the main, large open areas where people can easily continue to socially distance safely.’
Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament today (Feb 23) that the country’s stay-at-home order was expected to be lifted from April 5 under a phased plan to lift lockdown.
She said that ‘if all goes according to plan’, Scotland will return to the levels system of coronavirus restrictions from April 26, with all council areas moving to Level 3.
That will allow a ‘phased but significant reopening of the economy, including non-essential retail, hospitality and services like gyms and hairdressers’.
The phases will be separated by at least three weeks and depend on the virus continuing to be suppressed.
Sturgeon added that she was aiming to give more details in mid-March about easing restrictions but it was hoped more freedoms in retail would be in place from April 5.
Sandy Burgess, chief executive of the Scottish Motor Trade Association, told Car Dealer that the organisation would be issuing a guidance statement to members to ensure there was no ambiguity about what was and wasn’t currently allowed.