“We understand the importance of bringing the virus fully under control. However, it is very disappointing that dealerships will not be able to reopen until April.

“NFDA has already made the Government aware of the safety procedures dealerships are able to follow, and of how important it is for our sector to reopen as soon as possible. There are more than 4,500 franchised dealerships in the UK, with over 590,000 people employed in the retail side of the automotive industry.

“Since the outbreak of the virus a year ago, the motor industry was one of the first to work with the Government to develop guidelines to enable a safe return to work. Dealerships have invested heavily to adopt best-practice measures and ensure maximum protection for staff and customers.

“Dealerships have large areas, they generally have a lot of outdoor space on the forecourt and today there are very few vehicles in showrooms as these spaces are already adapted to be Covid-secure; social distancing is easy to maintain. Dealerships can operate effectively by appointment and take all necessary steps such as measuring customers’ temperature when they enter the premises, wearing masks, working behind protective screens, as well as sanitising cars and keys.

“Franchised dealers have demonstrated their resilience and ability to adapt, providing online sales and click & collect services. However, these are not enough to sustain businesses this year nor to fully satisfy consumer demand, especially with the upcoming plate change in March.

“Dealerships could reopen safely and immediately”.

Sue Robinson, Chief Executive of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) which represents franchised car and commercial vehicle dealers in the UK.