PARIS -- French dealerships will reopen showrooms on Saturday, after a monthlong closure under new COVID-19 lockdowns that are expected to cut November sales by at least 70 percent.
Showrooms were closed Oct. 31 as the French government ordered a new lockdown after coronavirus cases surged to levels not seen since the spring. Dealerships were allowed to continue service operations and schedule deliveries, either of cars ordered before the lockdown or from online "click and collect" sales.
During the first lockdown, new-car registrations in France fell by 72 percent in March and in 89 percent in April, and started to pick up only toward the end of May.
Analysts and trade groups said the November lockdown will have a less-severe effect on sales, but uncertainty about the economy and continued restrictions on travel in France are likely to depress registrations in December.
Through October, French registrations are down by 27 percent.
Showrooms in England, which also imposed a lockdown for the month, are set to remain closed until Dec. 2.
In an effort to sustain the recovery of the auto market, the French government has extended enhanced incentives for electrified cars (full-electric and plug-in hybrids) and for trading in older, higher-emissions cars until July.
At the end of May the government announced a total of 8 billion euros ($8.8 billion) in support for the industry, including 5 billion euros worth of state-guaranteed loans for Renault Group.
Dealerships must abide by stricter health measures when they reopen, the French auto professionals’ group CNPA said. No more than one customer (or family) per 8 square meters will be allowed in showrooms, compared with the current 4 square meters. Larger dealerships must have a "greeter" at the entrance to count visitors.
In addition, businesses including dealerships are authorized to open on Sundays and extend evening hours.
PSA Retail, which operates 140 showrooms in France, said Thursday that some larger dealerships would be adding Sunday hours, depending on local regulations, and would also have online sales representatives available on Sundays.