RAY MASSEY: Car showrooms prepare to reopen


We’re coming back, is the defiant message delivered by one of the UK’s biggest car dealerships this week as thousands of showrooms across the UK prepare to reopen from Monday. 

But in the case of Marshall Motors — whose brands include MINI, Audi, BMW, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Peugeot, Mercedes-Benz, Skoda, Ford, Vauxhall, Volkswagen and Volvo — they did it in a quirky way that has brought a smile to many faces.

Two of their top executives have produced a hilarious online video pastiche of the Three Lions England football anthem, changing the lyrics ‘It’s coming home’ to ‘We’re coming back’, which has proved a social media hit as well as a great welcome back to car buyers. 

The new 'normal': Showrooms will be 'Covid-19 compliant' with 2m social distancing, safety screens, face masks, hand-sanitiser stations and no-touch policies

The new ‘normal’: Showrooms will be ‘Covid-19 compliant’ with 2m social distancing, safety screens, face masks, hand-sanitiser stations and no-touch policies

It’s just in time for a growing wave of new cars, including: 

  • The chunky MINI Countryman refreshed with new kit, styling tweaks and priced from under £23,500. There’s a choice of petrol, diesel and frugal petrol-­electric plug-in hybrid from £34,400, plus a sporty £36,000 John Cooper Works version to follow.
  • BMW’s upgraded ‘executive class’ 5-series cruiser-bruiser saloon and Touring estates, with a bigger grille and 2 per cent rise in price. A powerful 530hp 4.4 litre twinturbo M550i xDrive M performance version costs from £67,596.
  •  Volvo’s first fully electric car, the £53,1550 408hp XC40 Recharge Pure Electric P8, which does rest to 62mph in 4.9 seconds with a range of 249miles but costs double the price of the cheapest £25,295 petrol version.     

Having closed its 119 dealerships from March 23, Marshalls reopened its after-sales departments on May 26 and opens its showrooms from Monday. Many more of the UK’s 4,000-plus dealerships will be following suit. 

Showrooms will be ‘Covid-19 compliant’ with 2 m social distancing, safety screens, face masks, hand-sanitiser stations and no-touch policies. 

Vehicles will be subject to scrupulous cleaning of door handles, seats, steering wheel, gear lever and handbrake. Test drives will be unaccompanied.

Starring in the Marshall Motor Group ‘We’re coming back’ video are company secretary Stephen Jones on drums and head of property Simon Page on guitar and lead vocals.

Reflecting the mood and actions across the sector, Marshall’s energetic chief executive Daksh Gupta, an executive member of the National Franchised Dealers’ Association (NFDA) said: ‘We’re in gear, revved up and ready to hit the road. 

‘We really are aware of pent up demand from customers. They can’t wait to get back into showrooms and we can’t wait to welcome them back. Our experience already from online and phone sales backs that up. It’s very exciting and we’re confident we’ve got the measures o place to keep people safe.’

Mr Gupta said: ‘All vehicles will be subject to cleaning procedures and protection before we handle them and return them to the customer. This will include external touch areas, door handles, seats, steering wheel, gear lever, handbrake.’

Jaguar Land Rover said of its reopening : ‘Customers will be given staggered appointment times reducing volume of visitors in the retailer at any one time, and test drives will be unaccompanied. 

Moving in the right direction: Vehicles will be subject to scrupulous cleaning of door handles, seats, steering wheel, gear lever and handbrake

Moving in the right direction: Vehicles will be subject to scrupulous cleaning of door handles, seats, steering wheel, gear lever and handbrake

‘Static showroom models will be locked and opened on request, and subsequently cleaned before being re-locked. Documentation where possible will be exchanged digitally negating the use of paper and pens.’  

New Land Rover Defender and refreshed Jaguar F-TYPE deliveries are among those now available for test drive, though these too will be unaccompanied.

Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), which represents franchised car and commercial vehicle retailers in the UK, said: ‘As lockdown measures start to ease, many of us will need cars to get back to work and it is crucial that automotive retailers are open to serve the workforce. The retail automotive sector looks forward to welcoming customers back into showrooms.’

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Garages are open to service cars in line with self-distancing and hygiene rules and with some offering online no-contact pick-up and delivery options. 

But Steve Nash, chief executive of the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), fears the extended grace period allowing cars to postpone their MOT tests for six months during the lockdown will put dangerous and unroadworthy cars back on the road and is campaigning for it to end. 

Millions of motorists are risking a blowout by driving with under-inflated tyres following weeks in lockdown with their cars standing idle, says a new report by Halfords. 

A survey of 2,000 motorists found just four in 10 can correctly identify the low tyre pressure warning light when it pops up on the dashboard. 

And half of those who’ve seen the warning light ignored it. Only seven out of 10 of drivers know the correct pressure for their tyres with the average driver checking just once every three months. 

Under-inflated tyres are more likely to suffer a blowout, use more fuel, make steering heavier and affect the car’s ride quality. 

CUMMINGS SAGA RAISES AWARENESS OF MOTORING ISSUES 

Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s political adviser has done wonders for raising awareness about fuel economy and road safety — particularly when it comes to driving if you’re suffering from poor vision. 

That’s thanks to his 264-mile family lockdown-trek from London to Durham,  plus his 60-mile round-trip to Barnard Castle, a total of 324 miles. 

By my calculation, setting off with a full tank, his diesel D180 2.0litre Land Rover Discovery Sport in R-Dynamic HSE trim with a 65litre (14.3gallon) tank and an official fuel economy of 38.9mpg would give him 556miles. 

Using the lower WhatCar? ‘real world’ figure of 33.6mpg — a range of 480.5miles — it was still do-able. 

But to drive the main journey non-stop would require cast-iron bladders and mean ignoring advice to rest every two hours.

FOURTH GENERATION KIA RIO HAS ELECTRIC/PETROL HYBRID 

The new, upgraded fourth generation Kia Rio has a range that for the first time includes an electrified petrol 48-volt mild hybrid powertrain. 

It also includes a face-lifted exterior, updated interior and safety improvements. 

Hitting the road: The new, upgraded fourth generation Kia Rio has a range that for the first time includes an electrified petrol 48-volt mild hybrid powertrain

Hitting the road: The new, upgraded fourth generation Kia Rio has a range that for the first time includes an electrified petrol 48-volt mild hybrid powertrain

Expect prices from £13,000 when it goes on sale at the end of the year with a seven-year warranty. 

  • Great news for Nissan’s Sunderland car factory, which builds the Juke and is preparing for the Qashqai and an expected new Renault model. The NissanRenault alliance says it remains an ‘important part’ of its business. The carmaker is, instead, shutting a factory in Barcelona as it seeks to cut £2.3 billion in costs worldwide. 
  • Sad news for British supercar and F1 firm McLaren in Woking, which is axing 1,200 jobs or a third of its 4,000-strong workforce. 

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