LONDON -- The British auto industry is fighting against new lockdown measures that will force showrooms in England to close from Thursday until Dec. 2 as the country struggles to control the coronavirus pandemic.
The SMMT industry association said it was seeking “urgent clarification” from the UK government on what the new measures mean for automotive retailing.
“Auto manufacturing must have its showrooms open,” SMMT CEO Mike Hawes wrote on Twitter. “We need to keep the economy turning -- safely -- and prevent wider job losses.”
Under the latest lockdown, factories are allowed to continue operating.
Dealerships will be closed to walk-in customers but they will be able to hand over cars ordered online in a so-called "click and collect" service.
“The handover will be outside so bring a coat,” Robert Forrester, CEO of dealer group Vertu Motors, said in a statement posted on the website of the company’s Bristol Street Motors brand.
Daksh Gupta, CEO of dealer group Marshalls, questioned why garden centers will be allowed to remain open during the lockdown while dealerships must shut. "Why can these remain open and car showrooms with more space and can’t?" he tweeted on Sunday.
Dealerships should be allowed to continue to sell cars with measures such as social distancing because showrooms are generally large buildings with fewer customers than other stores, according to the SMMT. The SMMT’s Hawes pointed out that dealers were “proven safe and secure, a very different environment from other retail premises.”
The UK’s parliament will vote on the measures on Wednesday, but the government’s decision is expected to be ratified.