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.
It says reinstating a ‘click & collect’ service from April 5 would be a “low risk/high return” for the motor Industry.
SIMI says that retail in the motor industry is different from other non-essential retail- as 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, SIMI says 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 per cent of the sales for the year, which SIMI Without this period, the Industry and the State will lose significant revenues.
Gillian Fanning, president of SIMI and director of Serfac Ltd says: “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.”
According to a recent national survey conducted by Behaviour & Attitudes, 75 per cent of the people would be comfortable visiting car dealerships and garages when travel restrictions allowed.
Car dealerships and garages were ranked first out of eight non-essential retailer categories as the most comfortable to visit, Behaviour & Attitudes found.
Brian Cooke, SIMI director general adds: “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.”