SMMT chief executive Mike HawesSMMT chief executive Mike Hawes

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SMMT calls for Covid secure car dealerships to be allowed to open as critical March plate change approaches

3 months ago

With the critical plate change month of March fast approaching, the SMMT is calling for car dealerships to be allowed to open.

With January sales down nearly 40 per cent in the worst start to a year since 1970, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes is calling for action.

In a blog post, the SMMT chief said that ‘every day’ dealers are allowed to open ‘will matter’ as the critical month of March nears.

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He argues that dealerships can operate in Covid Secure way, often on an appointment basis and can deal with customers safely.

Car dealerships are currently only operating via click and collect and are, in the main, not offering test drives. 

Hawes said: ‘While the current lockdown is absolutely necessary to suppress the virus, with the vaccine rollout gathering pace hopefully to get us out of lockdown, the industry needs a pathway to reopening. 

‘Retail showrooms are Covid-secure. They are usually large premises with high ceilings and low footfall, often managing customers on an appointment basis. 

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‘Click and collect is helping but this cannot be a long-term substitute for the showroom experience.’

Despite the restrictions dealers managed to achieve 60 per cent of normal sales volumes in January, far better than 5 per cent they achieved in the first lockdown.

Hawes said ‘lifting the shutters’ would ‘secure the jobs and livelihoods’ of workers.

He added: ‘The last time January sales were this low was in 1970 and, with March fast approaching, the need to reopen car showrooms at the earliest opportunity is clear. 

‘Every day that showrooms can safely open will matter, especially with the critical month of March looming.’

Hawes pointed out that the automotive sector lost £20.4bn in revenue last year and March is a crucial month for car dealers.

Usually at this time of year dealers are building up order banks for the March market, but these are already down and every day dealerships are closed is causing further problems.

James Baggott

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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