The DVLA has confirmed that potential car buyers will be allowed to undertake solo test drives to ensure social distancing, in another step that indicates authorities are preparing to kick-start car sales as part of an effort to stimulate the economy as the coronavirus lockdown eases.
In order for the test drives to happen, the selling dealer must use registered trade plates and have full insurance in place. If so, the potential buyer will be allowed to drive the car without a dealer representative in the car.
A DVLA statement said: “A prospective purchaser may test drive a vehicle on trade plates, without the trader licence holder being present.
“Trade plates are the property of the secretary of state and motor traders should take all precautions to ensure that trade plates are not stolen.”
However, the move has already raised concerns, with Jem Emirali, from motor trade insurance brokers Aston Lark, telling Car Dealer Magazine: “It is highly unlikely motor trade insurance policies will offer this as standard, so dealers need to speak to their broker.
“Adding this on would be an extension to their policy and is usually calculated as a percentage of their turnover – so it could be a few hundred or a few thousand pounds.”
The announcement follows last week’s news that dealerships are allowed to sell cars online and deliver them to buyers, so long as all social distancing rules are followed. There are also reports that the government is preparing to allow non-essential businesses - such as car dealerships - to conduct purchased car handovers at their premises, so long as strict distancing regulations are followed. If the latter is allowed, it is seen by many in the industry as the key for large-scale car selling to resume.
The National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) estimates that the UK’s automotive retail businesses are responsible for turnover of around £200 billion a year, with £150bn of that coming from car sales. Franchised dealers employ around 174,000 people in the UK, with around 590,000 employed across all automotive retail.
A weekly car buyer survey by What Car? revealed this month that one in five people researching cars on its website was looking to buy as soon as the lockdown ended.