In a recent national survey conducted by Behaviour & Attitudes 75% of the people surveyed said they would be comfortable visiting car dealerships/garages when travel restrictions allowed. Car dealerships/garages were ranked first out of eight non-essential Retailer categories as the most comfortable to visit.
The Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI), along with Industry leaders, from Retail, Wholesale and Vehicle Distribution have re-emphasised that motor retail is ready to open, when restrictions allow. Retail in the Motor Industry is different from other non-essential retail. The large size of dealerships, the low average footfall, the ability to do business on a strict appointment only basis and the option of displaying cars outside lends itself to social distancing and safe retailing making car sales very low risk.
From a health and safety perspective, the Industry has proven during the duration of the pandemic that showrooms can operate in a low-risk environment for their employees and customers. Car sales have been particularly challenging for the Industry, over the past number of years with a declining market since 2016. The first quarter of the year creates 60% of the sales for the year. Without this period, the Industry and the State will lose significant revenues.
““Our industry, as essential retailers, has been open for servicing throughout most of the lockdown. We have shown we can operate very safely for service and repair, ensuring the continuation of our supply chain and our vehicles are safe. The fact that people are now more reliant on private cars from a personal safety perspective, we request from the government that we can open our sales operations from the 5th of April, even if this is on a click and collect basis. The reopening of our sales operations is of critical importance to our industry and its related sectors. We believe that we can make a positive impact on the economy for the rest of 2021.”
“Like the Government, the health and safety of the Motor Industry’s customers and employees continues to remain our top priority. We have provided essential services since the start of the pandemic and will continue to do so. Car Retailers have invested heavily to minimise the risk of COVID spreading, and the large showrooms and low transaction levels allow for social distancing well beyond the two-metre recommendation. With the improving weather and longer days, car sales can be transacted entirely in an outdoor setting, further reducing the already low risk environment. Balanced action by Cabinet is required to protect the future of our Industry, prevent further job losses and diminishing exchequer contributions. With over 40,000 people employed in the sector, it is crucial to the economy as our Industry has already been heavily impacted by the pandemic, with the impact on new car sales last year added to the 2021 shortfall coming in at over €1bn, of which €400 million is lost in exchequer funding. Our members are ready to re-open their showrooms once conditions allow, but an interim move to a click and collect basis is of vital importance to local businesses and employment.”
“Car Retailers, as essential retail, have demonstrated their ability to manage the service and repair of customers vehicles safely. The additional sales customers visiting our dealerships under click and collect would only be a minimal 10% on existing showroom visits, representing on average of six customers per retailer over the course of a day. A significant number of our customers will not conclude the sale until they can view the car physically in person and take an unaccompanied test drive, given the product's large financial outlay. I urgently request that the government support our Industry by announcing modifications to the restrictions this week and reinstate Click & Collect and unaccompanied test drives. As the industry waits with bated breath for the Cabinet’s update this week, we believe that the government's failure to act on this will inevitably result in further job losses as motor retailers will be unable to retain all of their people”.
“Retailers around the country have, from the start of the Pandemic, invested heavily in measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 adhering to HSE and HSA Guidelines. Showrooms are a very low risk environment for our staff and customers due to the size of premises and the ability to work by appointment only. We really hope that restrictions will ease next month and that the motor business can return to more normal levels once the health situation allows so that we can protect long term employment and local businesses.”