BERLIN -- Germany's extended national lockdown to halt rising COVID-19 infections threatens the survival of car retailers, the ZDK dealers’ lobby group said.
The ZDK called for the immediate reopening of dealerships, which it said are safe places to conduct business because of their large size and the low number of customers in stores at any one time.
The all-important spring business is in danger of largely failing for the second year in a row, ZDK president Juergen Karpinski said.
"Thousands of family-run dealerships are in immediate danger of going bankrupt," he said. "They are paying the running costs of keeping the lights on, even though the dealerships are closed."
New-car sales have plunged since the government ordered showrooms to shut on December 16. The country’s lockdown, which affects non-essential businesses, has been extended to April 18, as more infectious coronavirus variants threaten to overwhelm hospitals.
A ZDK survey of 2,000 car dealerships and automotive businesses in February found incoming orders in January and February slumped by up to 60 percent. Registrations in Germany fell 19 percent to 194,349 in February. Customers can buy cars online and pick them up from dealerships.
Karpinski said a system of rapid COVID-19 tests and a contact tracing system can be used to make visits safe. "We have dealerships with 15,000 square-meter showrooms, and the logic of not being able to have customers in there is impossible to understand," he said.