Peterborough car showrooms re-open with strict measures
After months of being closed, car dealerships in Peterborough have re-started their engines but have had to put in strict guidelines to ensure safety of staff and customers.
The reopenings come after Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave the green light for outdoor markets and car showrooms to re-open from June 1.
Marshall Motor Group, with showrooms in Peterborough for leading car manufacturers including Jaguar, Volvo and Vauxhall, welcomed back customers from yesterday. It had closed its doors on March 23, following government guidelines to observe social distancing.
During the lockdown, the company announced a fall in sales and new orders and have had only 3,700 new and used vehicles orders, including from both retail and fleet customers. This is down from 19,000 for the same period last year.
However, it kept 62 of its 117 sites operating to assist with emergency car needs, especially for the key workers, despite incurring a loss.
A spokesperson for Marshall Motor Group said yesterday: “In line with the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions and Government guidelines, in the past week, we have expanded our aftersales services being offered, reopening all of the Company's aftersales facilities for all customers and for all services. Whilst still early, initial demand is encouraging as we start to ramp-up our aftersales operations.
“In the past week, we have begun the process of fulfilling both vehicle orders taken during the closure period and those vehicles sold in March 2020 but which could not be delivered before the closure of our retail sites.
“As announced on May 26, the board welcomed the confirmation from the government that car showrooms would be permitted to re-open from June 1 provided they have taken all necessary steps to ensure they were COVID-19 secure in line with current Health and Safety legislation.
“All our 117 car showrooms and all other operating units will therefore be open with effect from today, operating in accordance with our revised operating procedures. Initially, the number of colleagues returning to our businesses will be limited, both to ensure that we are able to safely operate in accordance with social distancing guidelines and to enable the Company to match resource to consumer demand.
“Therefore, we will be operating with approximately 50% of colleagues returning to work. The health and wellbeing of our colleagues and customers remains our priority. We expect the return to a more normalised trading levels to be a gradual process over the coming.
“We have placed sanitisers and wipes in the showroom. PPE screens are also in place now and everyone is being encouraged to maintain the two-metre distance. This is also being exercised with workstations for staff. The cars and premises will also regularly be cleaned.
“We have got large premises, so it has been easier to accommodate the measures efficiently in our showrooms. The colleagues are excited to be back at work as well and feel safe with all the adequate measures put in.”
More Car LTD is a family run car dealership on Padholme Road, Peterborough, gearing up for re-opening. Although, the owners have adapted a new model to keep going during the lockdown and have continued their online orders. However, they added, it hasn’t been the most positive.
Owner Ishfaq Hussain, speaking to Peterborough Matters said: “We shut the showroom soon after the lockdown started and furloughed all our five staff members. Three of the have been brought back now. However, we have been taking online orders. They've been very slow though - probably one or two a week.
“We made sure we followed all the guidelines for social distancing while doing deliveries for online orders. Our delivery people were maintaining distance, wearing a mask, staying away from customers and cars were being fumigated before delivery.
“Even now that we have opened, we are taking safety measures seriously. It’s appointment only to restrict customers.
“We have got masks and hand wipes, sanitizers and gloves for customers and we will be cleaning the cars regularly.
“For people who can’t come to the showroom, we are doing video calls to show them the car and our share our expertise with them to help them make a decision. It has been well received so far.”
To keep himself busy while the business is shut, Ishfaq Hussain has been working with local organisations and helping deliver hundreds of care packages and meals to the vulnerable community in Peterborough, since the lockdown started.