The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders says the measure would "unlock recovery".

Car dealers should be allowed to open their doors “as a matter of urgency”, a leading industry body has said. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) says opening the UK 4,900 dealers in the country will help both the car industry and the wider economy recover from the coronavirus lockdown.

Like so many other businesses, car dealers have not been able to open their sales departments to motorists since the government implemented a lockdown on March 23. The SMMT, which represents car dealers and makers, says the enforced closure of dealer showrooms is costing Her Majesty's Treasury a massive £61 million every day.

The organisation’s figures show new car sales have been almost completely wiped out by Covid-19, with new registrations down 97 percent in April. And with the government’s annual take from VAT, Vehicle Excise Duty and other taxes on new car sales to private buyers amounting to around £5.4 billion, the SMMT says reopening dealers could help the country’s economic recovery.

Car salesman in car dealership showroom

According to the body, lockdown restrictions will, by the end of May, have cut that figure by almost a quarter (23 percent). And the SMMT says every day that goes by sees the cost increase by £20 million, without counting the costs of furloughing the staff.

In light of this, the SMMT is launching a new #UnlockUKAuto campaign, setting out the benefits of allowing dealerships to reopen. The body says car dealer showrooms are generally large spaces, making social distancing easier. And the organisation claims retailers have been working to create “comprehensive” measures that ensure the safety of customers and staff.

Smiling woman buying car at dealership with salesman

“Government measures to support the critical automotive industry during the crisis have provided an essential lifeline, and the sector is now ready to return to work to help the UK rebuild,” said Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive. “Car showrooms, just like garden centres, are spacious and can accommodate social distancing easily, making them some of the UK’s safest retail premises.

“Allowing dealers to get back to business will help stimulate consumer confidence and unlock recovery of the wider industry, boosting tax revenue and reducing the burden on government spending. Unlike many other retail sectors, car sales act as the engine for manufacturing and reopening showrooms is an easy and relatively safe next step to help get the economy restarted. With every day of closure another day of lost income for the industry and Treasury, we see no reason for delay.”