Motor dealers to reopen for sales from Monday

Car dealers can open showrooms for sales as well as servicing and repair operations

Motor dealers will now be able to sell cars from Monday as long as they meet the requirement for social distancing. The move marks a reprieve for the sector as the Government’s Covid-19 roadmap for reopening businesses had indicated initially that they could only open for servicing and repairs.

The initial interpretation by distributors, dealers and the motor trade lobby group, the Society of the Motor Industry (SIMI), was that car showrooms could not reopen for sales until the second phase of the plan starting on June 8th.

According to SIMI director general Brian Cooke: "We welcome the clarity and understand the decision was only made in the last couple of days. I've no doubt that our members will meet all the requirements in relation to protecting customers and staff."

There had been a great deal of concern within the trade that the three-week delay in reopening would severely curtail sales in the important second registration period, which starts in July.



“It means dealers can start selling used cars and gives franchised dealers a good run-in to the start of the important July new car sales period, said Mr Cooke.

However, there was some criticism over the lack of clarity about reopening during the week. Niall Phillips, brand director of Seat, said: “Clearly we are delighted to be reopening on Monday. The uncertainly over the last few days hasn’t been easy for the industry and perhaps could have been handled a little better, but we are relieved to have the opportunity to get going again.

“We will have a raft of measures in place to ensure both staff and customers can feel safe coming back to the retailers. The rest of this year will be a challenge and we need to have a healthy July one way or another, but these extra weeks to what we first anticipated will be vital.”

Stephen Gleeson, managing director of Hyundai Ireland, said the extra three weeks will give dealers much-needed extra time to sell used cars and prepare for the new registration period, describing the Government decision as “ the difference between having a poor July and having a reasonable July”.

However, he reiterated his call for a temporary reduction in Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) to help boost sales.

Safety measures

Most motor dealers have already introduced measures to prepare for reopening in the dealerships, given that the premises had to be ready for customers arriving from Monday for servicing and repairs.

Hand sanitisation units, Plexiglass screens and two-metre markers on the floors have already been introduced, while some have installed scanners to monitor the temperatures of those entering showrooms. Plans for unaccompanied test drives are in place, while all test cars and those arriving for servicing or repair will be cleaned when they arrive at the dealership and before they leave.

For those putting their car in for servicing, many dealers have also adopted video messaging services to to show customers the repairs or parts replacement needed on a vehicle and to get agreement on work, rather than have the owner physically come into the garage.

Similarly for sales, dealerships are turning to online presentations of cars and agreeing specifications.

Michael McAleer

Michael McAleer

Michael McAleer is Motoring Editor, Innovation Editor and an Assistant Business Editor at The Irish Times