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The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), the peak body for the automotive industry, has implored the Victorian Government to open up Melbourne Metropolitan vehicle and motorcycle dealerships from 28th September – or Step 2 in the COVID-19 Roadmap for Reopening.

Tony Weber, chief executive of the FCAI said the extended Roadmap confirms the Government’s strategy of focusing on the health crisis prior to the economic crisis that Victorian business is facing.

“While this is understandable, and the FCAI believes that the health of our community must take precedence, there is no doubt that industry and business is facing challenging times – some industries more than others,” Mr Weber said.

The automotive industry in Australia has seen 29 months of decline

“The automotive industry in Australia is suffering – and has been for the past two years.  On the back of a number of challenging issues, including drought, floods, financial restrictions and economic uncertainty, new vehicle sales have been diminishing for the past 29 months,” Mr Weber said.

“The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the final straw for some automotive businesses, with Victorian new car sales down 66 per cent during August.

“Another two months in lockdown will have disastrous effects for the industry.  The simple fact is there are many businesses that will not make it through.”

Automotive dealerships follow best practice COVIDSafe protocols

Mr Weber said that while the FCAI supports a health-driven recovery to the pandemic, the industry believes there should be room to move for businesses that have displayed the ability to operate in COVIDSafe conditions.

“Across Australia, automotive brands and their dealerships have initiated comprehensive and thorough COVIDSafe conditions in their facilities to ensure the ongoing protection and safety of staff and customers.

“Vehicle and motorcycle dealerships, by their very nature, have a large footprint and are sparsely populated.  Maintaining personal distance within the showrooms is no problem.

“The Service areas of dealerships often have an even larger footprint, with the ability to allocate a single bay to each technician. Personal distancing in the service area is also no problem.

“And brands have perfected the art of contactless consultation, advice, sales, and vehicle delivery.

“Most importantly, brands have comprehensive COVIDSafe plans and contact tracing for the various areas of their operations, addressing different scenarios that may arise,” Mr Weber said.

The industry seeks a return to work at Step 2 on 28th September

“We believe the industry has the capability to safely return to work at an earlier time.

“Ideally, we would like to see the automotive retail network be included in the 100,000 workers allowed to return to work on the 28th September (Step 2 of the Government plan).

“We implore the Premier, Daniel Andrews, and his Government to consider the automotive industry in their Stage 2 release plans,” Mr Weber said.