Essex car showroom busy as dealerships reopen in England

Via Yahoo Finance

Sajul Islam has had his eye on a new seven-seater Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace throughout the coronavirus lockdown, and he took his chance on Monday as car dealerships across England opened their doors for the first time in more than 2 months.

“I’ve been waiting for weeks for this showroom to open up again,” Islam said, as he haggled over last-minute discounts with the salesman from behind a perspex screen inside the Marshall VW dealership in Loughton, Essex. “My family has grown during the lockdown, and we need more space; that’s why I chose this seven-seater.”

Islam, 36, who works for Transport for London, said he had been planning to buy the car before the lockdown was imposed on 23 March. “Now, with three kids, we aren’t comfortable in my BMW, we need more space. I would have bought it during lockdown, but I wanted to see it and test drive it before I bought it.”

To comply with the social distancing rules, Islam, who lives in Tower Hamlets, London, headed out on the test drive alone. Car dealerships have negotiated special insurance deals to allow prospective customers to take new cars out for solo spins.

Lorraine on reception has seen her role expand, ensuring that physical distancing rules are met and that everyone remembers to sanitise their hands. The dealership has also introduced a one-way system, limits on the number of people allowed inside and customers are no longer allowed to wander around unaccompanied.

Andrew Lean, Marshall Motor Group’s director of VW dealerships, hopes that the firm, which operates 117 dealerships for a variety of marques, will emerge from the coronavirus crisis relatively intact, even though sales have collapsed. “We sold 3,700 cars during the shutdown, which compares to 19,000 during the same period a year earlier,” he said. “It’s a 80% decline, but it’s not as bad as it could have been.”

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While car showrooms in England were allowed to open from 1 June and in Northern Ireland they can open from 8 June, there is no date set for reopening in Wales or Scotland.

Lean said there was “a lot of pent up demand” from people wanting to buy cars and the large showroom was often full to its self-imposed capacity of 10 customers on Monday. But he said people were showing more interest in secondhand than new cars. “Normally our sales ratio is about two used cars for every new one, but it has risen to about 7-8:1,” he said.

Lean said it was hard to predict how sales would pan out after an initial peak from pent up demand expected this week. “Boris [Johnson] has told people to go back to work, but also told them not to go on public transport. It’s quite a confused message, but we think that might explain why there has been more interest in used cars.”

Back from his solo test drive spin, Islam is ready to sign on the dotted line for his Tiguan. “So far, so good,” he said before adding quietly: “I’m hoping to squeeze out a bit of a better deal yet. A couple of free services at least.”