The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has collaborated with the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) to publish a safe restart guidance for the motor industry.

The best-practice guidance covers the entire customer experience, from booking appointments to showroom interactions, test drives, click & collect, part exchanges and aftersales, and includes advice on staff training, signage, sanitation and protective personal equipment (PPE).

Developed together with dealers and manufacturers, it is designed to complement government guidance for the overall UK retail sector, to help dealers of all shapes and sizes implement legal requirements as part of individual risk assessments in line with their unique business and customer needs.

The news follows the publication of government guidance to help businesses across all sectors get back to work safely. While workshops and vehicle deliveries have been allowed to continue throughout the lockdown period, the closure of sales premises has had a devastating effect on the entire industry, with the new car market falling 97.3% in April.

This forced factories across the UK, also impacted by lockdowns in global markets, to halt production. The industry is now calling for car showrooms to be re-opened as a matter of urgency  to help drive customer demand.

Sue Robinson, NFDA director, said: “People need cars to get back to work. Often, getting work done requires the use of a vehicle. It is positive that the automotive industry is working together to resume business as soon as possible in line with the government’s guidelines. The guidance will allow automotive retailers to provide the best possible service in sales and aftersales while protecting staff and guests. Automotive retailers are resilient and will be working hard to overcome any challenges to safely welcome customers back to the showrooms.”

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “A healthy new car market is a barometer of a strong economy and, with mobility so crucial to our everyday lives, now is the time to allow showrooms to re-open their doors. This guidance signals that Automotive is ready to get back to work to support the government as it sets the wheels of the UK’s recovery in motion, drive manufacturing and help get consumers and businesses safely back on the move in the latest, cleanest, high-tech vehicles.”

The automotive retail sector provides employment to more than 590,000 people and, with a turnover of around £200bn, represents one of the key sectors of the UK economy. There are more than 40m vehicles licensed in the UK, many of which may need servicing or replacing.