Car dealerships have been closed for more than 2 months now, following the government’s ruling on 23 March that the majority of retailers had to shut up shop.
Home deliveries and a ‘click and collect’ service are already allowed, but showrooms themselves have had to remain closed.
But with Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing that car dealers can reopen on 1 June, it means a sense of normality is returning. However, things will be different. It’ll mean changes have to be made to your business to ensure the safety of your customers.
There’s now guidance from the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) and Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) on how dealerships can safely prepare for re-opening once lockdown restrictions start to lift.
We’ve selected some highlights on best practice, but make sure you read the full recently updated guidance here.
1. Use PPE, if necessary
While you might think you need to stock up on PPE, the guidance here says “the role of PPE in providing additional protection is extremely limited”. As a firm, you should carry out a risk assessment to see whether or not it’s required. It needs to be offered free of charge if social distancing can’t be maintained. You should consider installing Perspex or glass screens to separate staff from customers, too.
2. Embrace digital technology
The guidance recommends dealers remove physical materials – including brochures – and replace them with a digital alternative. You could also add these to your website.
This also applies to the handover itself, as it’ll break social distancing if a salesperson sits in the car with a customer – so use video calling instead. You should also only consider electronic payments, and use digital paperwork wherever possible.
3. Ask customers to book appointments
Some dealers already operate on a ‘viewings by appointment’ basis.
Once showrooms can reopen, and to make sure social distancing can be maintained, you should ask customers to make appointments before visiting. By doing this, you can make sure the car they’re interested in is fully sanitised before they view it. It also helps to limit the number of people on your premises.
4. Increase hygiene measures
Regular cleaning and sanitisation will be absolute paramount going forward. All facilities (both those for customers and behind the scenes) should be sanitised regularly – including door handles, desks and printers. You should also make sure hand gel is available at areas across the site, and use paper towels instead of hand dryers. The guidance also recommends not to serve refreshments (teas, coffees, etc).
5. Keep cars clean and disinfected
It’s very important to adopt strict procedures with the cars themselves regarding test drives, viewings and collection. Cars should be regularly cleaned and disinfected – including main touch points such as door handles, the steering wheel and gearstick, etc.
Forecourt vehicles should be kept locked, and only opened when someone asks to look around. The car should then be cleaned and sanitised afterwards. This also applies to showroom cars.
The guidance also recommends airing the vehicle (leaving windows and door open, for example) before someone collects a vehicle, and after every viewing.
6. Maintain social distancing
Keep a 2m distance wherever possible. Guidance – including signs and markers – should be provided for both staff and customers. You may have to alter the showroom or premises layout, to avoid any bottlenecks – such as a clearly marked one-way system.
Test drives can go ahead, ahead, as long as they’re unaccompanied. The DVLA have confirmed that this is allowed if official trade plates are on display, but as a dealer you need to make sure you have the correct insurance in place first.
7. Make a checklist
Here’s a handy checklist of things to tick off in preparation for your showroom reopening:
- Install hand sanitiser across the site
- Introduce Perspex screens at sales/reception desks, is social distancing can’t otherwise be maintained
- Remove brochures, magazines and newspapers
- Video call handovers
- Prioritise electronic payments
- Adopt electronic paperwork
- Introduce a ‘viewings by appointment’ system
- Regular cleaning of both staff and customer areas
- Don’t serve any refreshments
- Lock all showroom and outside vehicles
- Sanitise cars before and after viewings and test drives
- Ventilate cars and premises as much as possible
- Put up social distancing signage
- Introduce a one-way system, even if it involves changing showroom layout
- Test drives need to be unaccompanied (ensure you have official trade plates and the correct insurance in place to do this)