SMTA warns Scottish car dealers to be cautious about opening indoor showrooms to avoid hefty fines

Time 4:02 pm, November 18, 2020

The Scottish Motor Trade Association (SMTA) is warning car dealers in Level 4 areas to ensure their indoor showrooms remain closed until the restrictions end on December 11.

Confusion currently surrounds the official guidance as it’s thought dealers can continue to sell cars from ‘outdoor car lots’, but the rules say indoor non essential retail should be closed.

The contradiction is leading many in the Scottish motor trade to question whether they can open their dealerships or not.

Sandy Burgess, chief executive of the SMTA, is worried car dealers may land themselves in trouble if they open showrooms.

He is urgently trying to seek clarification as to what is and isn’t allowed from ministers.

Burgess believes dealers should be ‘cautious’ and keep showrooms closed.

However, the rules that were released by the Scottish government specifically mentioned ‘outdoor car lots’ as being allowed to operate.

Motor trade legal experts Lawgistics confirmed to Car Dealer that the legislation should be interpreted as car dealers in the Level 4 areas being allowed to continue as normal outside, but indoor showrooms should be shut except for click-and-collect sales.

Service and repair garages are allowed to remain open as are the service and repair workshops of car dealerships.

The Level 4 measures, similar to a full lockdown, will apply from 6pm on Friday in Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, Stirling and West Lothian.

Burgess is more cautious, though, adding: ‘I don’t want any car dealer to risk a hefty fine by having the lights on in their showroom when they should be closed.’

Further confusion is caused by car dealers who have a service reception inside their showroom.

In England, these are allowed to remain open, but customers should be guided away from the sales area – and it is believed this practice should be followed in Scotland too.

Burgess added: ‘We’ve told Scottish government that for many car dealers their service desk will be inside the showroom.

‘We’ll be warning car dealers, unless there is further clarity to the contrary, to make sure no customer steps inside the dealership.

‘In cases where they need to access the service desk it should be clear that they can’t shop for cars while inside.

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‘If they start to look at cars inside the showroom they should be advised that this is against the current Scottish government guidelines.’

Car Dealer has asked the Scottish government for further guidance on this. So far, it has not replied.

What we know so far about car dealers in Level 4

  • The list of retail that is allowed to stay open in Level 4 includes ‘outdoor car lots’ and ‘outdoor car auctions’
  • ‘Indoor retail’ has to close, which suggests that showrooms should remain closed to the public
  • Indoor retail is still allowed to operate click-and-collect or home delivery services, so car buyers should be allowed to collect cars from inside showrooms
  • Guidance also adds that car sales should operate in a socially distanced way to keep staff and customers safe
  • Test drives must be operated with the same distancing, vehicle cleaning and ventilation measures set out in the driving lessons guidance
  • It is understood that car dealers can operate sales from their outdoor forecourt, but they will still need to meet normal selling and finance regulations while doing so.

Read more about what the Tiers and Levels mean here. 

Rebecca Chaplin's avatar

Rebecca has been a motoring and business journalist since 2014, previously writing and presenting for titles such as the Press Association, Auto Express and Car Buyer. She has worked in many roles for Car Dealer Magazine’s publisher Blackball Media including head of editorial.

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