A number of car dealers across Australia are beginning to offer contactless sales enquiries while the industry still has permission to stay open.
Several large dealerships have started promoting “contactless car buying” via email, social media and their own websites.
One of Sydney's largest multi-franchise dealers, Parramatta Motor Group, which sells Hyundai, Holden, Nissan, Suzuki, Jeep, Kia, Chrysler, Alfa Romeo and Ram Trucks, has sent an email to its entire customer data base that says: “We believe that all consumers deserve to have the opportunity to purchase any car of their choice and as easily as possible, so we’ve made it so easy you can literally do it whilst relaxing at home”.
The email goes on to say they can assist with basic enquiries over the phone or email, will deliver cars to homes for test drives, and value trade-ins either over the phone or at home. Finance can also be arranged remotely.
Another large metropolitan Sydney dealer group, Noble, which has Toyota, Volkswagen, Kia and MG, has started a Facebook campaign that says it is offering “contactless car buying” across all its brands.
Its offer of phone and email enquiries was similar but did not offer home test drives, but would deliver new cars to a buyer’s home address once a deal was done.
One of Australia's biggest Toyota dealers, Melbourne City, is now doing "virtual handovers". Its website says: "Melbourne City Toyota will only do virtual handovers for guests picking up their car on delivery day. This means we will give you the keys and documentation in person, but explain the car details in depth over video call to ensure you still get the full run-down on your vehicle."
The new measures are not being experimented with by every new-car dealer, but they are likely to catch on as more members of the public are forced into lockdown by their employers.
The car industry has lobbied state and federal governments to stay open as an “essential service”. In particular, the parts and service departments are key to performing routine maintenance and recalls that are critical to road safety.
Furthermore, members of the public will increasingly rely on cars as they shun public transport and ride-sharing services to avoid COVID-19.
For the time being, all new-car showrooms and their service centres are allowed to remain open, though some outlets are scaling back staff and / or reducing the number of days they are open so they can retain as many employees as possible.