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New Zealand car industry in full lockdown

Action figure: Prime minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand has “a window of opportunity to stay home, break the chain of transmission, and save lives; it’s that simple”.

NZ ‘Alert Level 4, Eliminate’ strategy shows Australia what full lockdown looks like

27 Mar 2020

NEW Zealand’s declaration of a state of emergency this week and full lockdown with a ‘Level 4’ response to the coronavirus pandemic has seen all car dealerships effectively close except to provide parts and servicing as required for vehicle owners working in essential services.


New Zealand Motor Industry Association (MIA) chief executive David Crawford told GoAuto that the automotive sector was fully supportive of the lockdown measures undertaken by the Ardern government’s ‘Alert Level 4 – Eliminate’ strategy that was put into place just after midnight on March 25.


He also said new-vehicle distributors and their franchised dealers had responded quickly to ensure that all non-essential services are shut down.


“In New Zealand there is overwhelming public support for strong measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” Mr Crawford said.


“There is little appetite from the public for businesses to try and find reasons to stay open at this time. Pleas from businesses to stay open are met with disbelief and come across as self-serving money before safety.


“The only credible response is to shut down as much as possible.”


Mr Crawford said the New Zealand government had made it clear to the car industry “that distributor and dealer functions should close and retain an ‘on call’ arrangement”.


In defining ‘essential service’ work and how it relates to the automotive industry, the government stated: “Workers involved in the provision of essential maintenance and safety services where the services are limited to maintaining other essential services and their vehicles (e.g. repairing emergency vehicles or parts replacement for a vehicle moving essential freight).


“Ideally these would be provided on demand. The types of capability deemed essential are: maintenance and engineering staff; vehicle recovery and assistance services; vehicle repairers, inspectors, certifiers, mechanics and vehicle part providers.


“Vehicle recovery and assistance services are also available for essential private travel such as groceries and healthcare.”


Asked whether every dealership is therefore able to remain open for parts supply and servicing/repairs, Mr Crawford said: “The clear expectation is no. The expectation is that dealers will close but retain an on-call demand capability during the COVID-19 alert 4 period.”


As for the sale of new vehicles under the lockdown, the MIA chief said: “Sales of new vehicles is not permitted other than by exception for those carrying out essential services.


“The process for sales of new vehicles at this time is controlled. The MIA will be facilitating this with officials on a case-by-case basis,” he said.


Mr Crawford said it was too early to comment on the likelihood of dealerships closing down permanently as a result of the measures taken in New Zealand, and that there was no indication at this stage as to whether the timeframe for lockdown – set at four weeks initially – will be extended.


“The government’s official advice is four weeks, but will be reviewed,” he said.


“Again, too early to make a call on that. What I can say is that we are expecting the economic impacts of the COVID-19 response to be significant and will require months if not years to recover from.”


Earlier this week, Mr Crawford issued a statement outlining the car industry’s response to the Level 4 restrictions in which he said there remains some ambiguity over what may or may not be done during the lockdown.


When asked to nominate which areas the MIA was working to clarify with government, Mr Crawford told GoAuto these particularly relate to the provision of safety recalls and penalties for the public who need a ‘warrant of fitness’ during the closedown period to ensure their road registration does not expire.


Independent repairers in New Zealand are operating under the same requirements.


“The message is simple: less is more. The less functions keep going the more likely we can stop the spread of the virus,” Mr Crawford said.


“It is clear that if we are to stop the virus in its tracks then we need to take strong and decisive action. The expectation is all services will close unless there is a clear and demonstrable need to keep vehicles operational for the delivery of essential services.


“The Motor Industry Association, along with the Motor Trade Association, endorses the government’s position that New Zealand needs to shut down to save lives.


“We ask the public to be understanding if a request to service or repair your vehicle during this time is declined. The sooner we can stop the spread of the virus the sooner New Zealand can reopen for business.”


In announcing the lockdown, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern said that “unlike so many other gravely inundated countries, we have a window of opportunity to stay home, break the chain of transmission, and save lives; it’s that simple”.


“We are moving into this next phase of our response early – ahead of any potential overrun of our hospitals, and ahead of any deaths on New Zealand soil,” she said.


“But that doesn’t mean we should be complacent. And that’s why we must take this period of self-isolation deadly seriously.


“This means we will go about life very differently to help slow down the spread of COVID-19. We all have a role to play.


“Only those in essential services will leave home to go to work. All others stay home and stop interactions with those outside the home.


“I am fully aware that we have moved with huge speed. No other country in the world has moved to these measures with no deaths and so few infections. We have five people in our hospitals, none in ICUs or needing ventilators at this stage.


“But we have no time to waste. We could have waited to plan every intricate detail required to execute this closure, till we could answer every single question or circumstance.


“But, every hour we wait, is one more person, two more people, three more people, exposed to COVID-19.


“That is why we did not wait. We established an alert system with clear guidance on when we must act, and why. We asked people to prepare, and then moved decisively.


“These moves will be enforced. And we will be the enforcer.”

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