What Level 3 means for the automotive industry

Motor Industry Association Chief Executive David Crawford says as we head towards a Covid-19 alert level 3 on Tuesday 28 April, distributors of new vehicles and their franchised dealerships are carefully preparing to re-open for business.

"In a Covid-19 constrained world, operating at Level 3 will not be business as usual, it is a careful step towards restarting businesses that have put in place adequate steps to limit the transmission of Covid-19. This will require operating in a customer contactless manner, while providing a Covid-19 free safe working environment for employees."

Crawford added that distributors and their franchised dealer network are preparing their businesses to achieve non-contact operations to:

- Operate their workshops with the necessary sanitation, distancing, and other health requirements

* How to prevent flat-spotting while in lockdown
* New Kiwi company offers WoF solution for essential workers
* Coronavirus: essential car questions

- Retail new vehicles without face to face customer contact throughout the sale and delivery process and to ensure vehicles are properly sanitised.

The Motor Industry Association endorses the Government's position that New Zealand needed to shut down to save lives, and that moving to Level 3 remains a necessarily constrained way of operating our businesses. Equally, in terms of imports, the new vehicle sector is second only to the importation of oil in its contribution towards the New Zealand's GDP.

Dealers and distributors are carefully looking into reopening parts of their businesses as non-contact operations.
Dealers and distributors are carefully looking into reopening parts of their businesses as non-contact operations.

"Getting these businesses operating again in a safe way is vital to allowing New Zealand's economy to begin to recover."

Some servicing will be available but Crawford warns that requests may be deferred or not possible until more restrictions are lifted. If your vehicle doesn't desperately need a service, consider waiting a couple more weeks to allow for those who do need work done.

Ross Hill, founder of online mechanic booking service BookMyCar, said he is "glad that the MIA has responded to Level 3 by clearly endorsing contact-less servicing and the opening up of car repair workshops.

"We felt it was really important to support essential workers from the minute the government allowed us to, which was on March 25th. The country has relied on thousands of silent heroes since day one of lockdown to hold society together.

"I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks we all owe a debt of gratitude to the supermarket workers, cleaners as well as nurses and doctors who have gritted their teeth and kept going through this.

Hill encouraged motorists to consider supporting local businesses and using owner-operated workshops, saying "All businesses are struggling but the smaller ones have less reserves to keep the life support going."  

Some servicing will be up and running but with more emphasis on sanitation, distancing and avoiding direct contact, just like Paywave.
Some servicing will be up and running but with more emphasis on sanitation, distancing and avoiding direct contact, just like Paywave.

A number of new car distributors have announced they will be reopening dealerships for servicing and even test drives, all done without direct contact.

"Customers will not be able to visit the inside of our dealerships," said a spokesperson from Hyundai New Zealand "but we will have a range of pick-up and drop-off options, both at the dealership and at your home. 

"We will be able to virtually show you your vehicle of choice using video call technology so that you are familiar with the vehicle before test driving."

Renault is offering a similar service, using video calls for car sales and 'click and collect' options will be available to ensure safety of everyone involved. The French brand added that dealerships will be applying stricter cleaning and sanitisation standards.

Toyota, Mitsubishi and Isuzu have confirmed that sales and servicing options will re-open for customers, with "all necessary measures" in place to do so safely, including contactless servicing and home pick-up and drop off.

Mitsubishi will also give priority to those older than 60 years of age, a service deadline extension of 90 days and virtual showrooms.

Subaru NZ boss, Wallis Dumper, said that Subaru is prepared for operating under Level 3 conditions, including getting dealers up and running for contactless service and repair work. He added that focus for his team has now shifted to May 11, when we'll know if the lockdown level can change again.

Dumper also issued a warning that "customers are going to need to change some behaviours permanently, accelerating prior trends", which could include switching from fossil fuels to electrifed vehicles. Dumper said Subaru has its e-Boxer hybrids inbound on that front, while it is also an indication of general car sales shifting online.

Stuff has reached out to other distributors, but had yet to hear at the time of publication.