Nearly two-thirds of showroom visitors will avoid dealers with no Covid-19 measures in place

This is the latest report in a series of weekly updates for industry colleagues from Rachael Prasher, managing director of What Car? and Haymarket Automotive. Quoted poll data is from more than 1300 whatcar.com users.

Monday marked the first time in more than a year that showrooms and dealerships in England didn’t have to restrict visitor capacity, adhere to social distancing guidelines or require staff and visitors to wear masks when entering the premises. Similar easing of restrictions took place in Scotland and Wales.

Anecdotally, many dealer groups have said they will maintain restrictions and hygiene policies, such as asking staff to wear masks, even after the so-called ‘Freedom Day’. To find out how consumers feel about the policy changes, we polled 1322 in-market buyers as part of our latest industry research.

Of those, nearly two-thirds (63.7%) told us they would avoid visiting a showroom if it had no social distancing guidelines, hygiene measures or other Covid-19 safety practices in place after the lifting of restrictions.

More than half (59.4%) told us they want to continue to see capacity restrictions enforced even after the legal requirement to do so expires, and 74.7% want social distancing measures such as the two-metre rule to remain in place after 19 July.

While other industries are removing mask requirements from customers, our research found that 78.5% of in-market buyers support continuing requests for staff and visitors to wear masks at showroom sites.

Would-be buyers were even more unequivocal about hygiene measures, such as disinfecting demonstrators after every use and offering hand sanitisers across the showroom, with 90.9% in support of these measures continuing.

The message to dealers is simple. The majority of buyers want to see Covid-19 safety measures continue, to the extent that failing to implement them is likely to impact whether or not customers make a visit.

While removing capacity restrictions and easing hygiene measures to increase potential footfall and the availability of test drives may look like a positive step, it could prove counterproductive to businesses because safety is still clearly at the forefront of buyers’ minds.