RAY MASSEY: As first new cars roll off British production lines again, locked-down dealers preparing to re-open showroom doors to customers
As the first new cars roll off British production lines again, thousands of locked-down dealers are preparing to re-open their showroom doors to customers.
With ministers urging people to avoid public transport and pent up demand for new and used cars, many returning to work after the Bank Holiday will be looking to buy a cheap commuter runaround.
In the past few weeks, ‘click and collect’ services have been allowed, whereby, though showroom doors remain shut, customers who have placed orders online or by phone, can still drive away vehicles.
New regime: Subject to Government approval, from June 1 showroom doors will reopen with social distancing and sanitising measures
Subject to Government approval, from June 1 showroom doors will reopen with social distancing and sanitising measures.
The changes can’t come soon enough. Car sales have tanked during lockdown, though research by What Car? suggests nearly one-in-five buyers will be looking to make a purchase in June.
Volvo chief executive Hakan Samuelsson has even spoken of ‘revenge buying’: ’People are tired of sitting at home locked in and want to go out and buy.’
Guidelines for reopening dealerships recommend an appointments system. There must be social distancing signs, sanitiser stations, and a one-way walking system. Coffee and children’s play areas are out, too. Test drives are allowed, but must be unaccompanied.
The motor and car retail industry has been urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government to confirm that it will include automotive retailers in the first wave of ‘non-essential’ retail re-openings from June 1, and allow car sales from showrooms to safely restart.
There are 4,900 car dealerships in the UK. The £200 billion automotive retail sector employs 590,000 people and contributes £36 billion a year to the public purse.
Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers’ Association (NFDA) said: ‘Dealerships are ready to welcome back staff and customers, with comprehensive safety measures covering showroom interactions, vehicle demos and test-drives.
‘People need cars to get back to work. The guidance will allow automotive retailers to provide the best possible service in sales and after-sales, while protecting staff and guests.
‘Retailers are resilient and will be working hard to overcome any challenges to safely welcome customers back to the showrooms.’
She noted: ‘The Government has told people they should avoid public transport and return to work on foot, by bicycle or by car, and the majority of the UK population will be relying heavily on cars to get to work, and on vans and trucks to move goods around the country.
‘Franchised dealerships provide reliable motor vehicles – cars, vans and commercial vehicles – which are essential for many people to get to work and to undertake their work safely and efficiently. Automotive retailers need to be open to serve the workforce and get the country moving again’.
Robert Forrester, chief executive of Vertu Motors, the UK’s fifth largest dealership group which in one day received 764 internet enquiries and sold 135 cars, said: ‘We are increasingly back in business and, armed with a face-mask made by my mum, I can’t wait.
‘With more of the sales force back….the only way is up.’
Vauxhall bosses have warned they will not resume production at their Ellesmere Port factory until dealerships selling their cars are open.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said: ‘A healthy new car market is a barometer of a strong economy and, with mobility so crucial to our everyday lives, now is the time to allow showrooms to re-open their doors.
‘It sets the wheels of the UK’s recovery in motion. It helps drive manufacturing and gets consumers and businesses safely back on the move in the latest, cleanest, high-tech vehicles.’
- Online searches for cars on sites such as AutoTrader – whose survey found more than half of those without a car were considering buying one to avoid public transport – have increased since PM Boris Johnson announced an easing of measures.
- Andy Oldham, chief executive of BuyaCar.co.uk, said: ‘Car sales in general are heading toward a very busy re-start. Consumers who have been kept out of the market for some time have a stronger appetite than ever for securing the best car they can afford.’
- After weeks off the road, Peugeot, Citroen, Vauxhall and DS owners can have their cars refreshed to help beat the virus. Parent company Groupe PSA’s new anti-bacterial refresh service — at £99 via its retailers — aims to minimise the risk of spreading Covid-19. It includes: cleaning the air conditioning system to remove bugs and nasty odours; replacing pollen filters; a 29-point vehicle health check of key components; and a full internal and external disinfection of the vehicle. The service operates under strict social distancing and hygiene guidelines, including contactless drop-off, collection and return at home or work.
- Online used car retailer Cazoo.co.uk offers a £250 discount to NHS workers on cars, which can be bought and delivered contactlessly within 72 hours.
Late-summer bloom: The 180mph eighth-generation Porsche Targa 911
PORSCHE’S EIGHTH-GENERATION 911 TARGA SET TO HIT THE ROAD
Those seeking something more than a runaround have a treat in store.
In August, Porsche begins delivery of its eighth-generation 911 Targa.
Powered by a 3-litre flat-six twin turbocharger engine, the Targa 4 (385hp) is priced from £98,170, and goes from rest to 62mph in 4.2seconds, with a 180mph top speed.
The beefier 911 Targa 4S ( 450hp ) , from £ 109, 725, accelerates from rest to 62mph in 3.6 seconds, up to a top speed of 189mph.
Driving force: Hyundai’s Ioniq came top in a poll of 10,000 vehicle owners by HonestJohn.co.uk
HYUNDAI’S IONIQ RATED UK’S MOST SATISFYING CAR TO OWN
Hyundai’s Ioniq has been rated the UK’s most satisfying car to own in a poll of 10,000 vehicle owners by HonestJohn.co.uk.
It is followed by the Skoda Superb Estate, Hyundai i10 (2014-2019), Toyota Prius, Skoda Kodiaq and BMW 5 Series Touring (2010-2017).
By contrast, the least satisfying were the Vauxhall Astra (2009-15), Vauxhall Meriva (2010–17) and Citroen C3 Picasso, which was also named least reliable.
Most reliable cars were the Toyota Prius, Toyota Yaris, Mazda CX-5, Kia Sportage and Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate (2010-2016).
Worst for reliability were Jeep, Tesla, Vauxhall, Citroen and Alfa Romeo.
Cars were rated on fuel economy, practicality and safety. The top five brands for satisfaction were Lexus, Skoda, Jaguar, Korea’s SsangYong and Hyundai.
- The first Range Rover made under social distancing measures rolled off the Jaguar Land Rover line at Solihull in the West Midlands this week.
- Seat has extended warranty cover on all vehicles by three months due to the closure of retailers in the Covid-19 pandemic.