GOOD TO GO!
Auto dealers groups pleased with discontinuation of weekday lockdownsFriday, September 17, 2021
BY BRIAN BONITTO
WHILE cognisant of the reasons for its implementation, Jamaica's new- and used-car association heads are welcoming the Government's decision to revamp its weekday no-movement day policy.
According to them, it was another speed bump for the sputtering sectors which are being hard-hit with layoffs, lockdowns, and refinancing of loans.
“This whole COVID thing and subsequent lockdowns have had a disastrous effects on the new-car and used-car dealers alike,” said Kent LaCroix, chairman of the Auto Dealers' Association (ADA).
“Therefore, a lot of relief will happen as a result of the [Government's] new measures. Many people are of the opinion that what has been done now is a good thing, as people can go about and do their business... so production will get back into a better swing,” LaCroix continued.
The ADA is the umbrella group for the new-car dealers in Jamaica.
As of yesterday, Jamaica recorded 1,768 deaths related to COVID-19 and more than 77,000 people have tested positive.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness discontinued four consecutive weeks of lockdowns which started on Saturdays at 6:00 pm and ended on Wednesdays at 5:00 am. The move was part of the Government's strategy to curb the current COVID-19 surge.
The new measures, however, will see only Sundays being no-movement days. And, effective September 18 to October 28, Mondays to Fridays will see the daily curfew beginning at 8:00 pm. Saturdays the lockdown will begin at 6:00 pm. All curfews end 5:00 am the following day.
Lynvalle Hamilton, president of the Jamaica Used-Car Dealers' Association (JUCDA), commended the Government's new approach.
“Anything from a total lockdown, especially on workdays, is much better... I understand what is happening. We wish it was better, but it is something we have to work with for the time being,” he said.
The JUCDA head is principal of Corporate Area-based dealership Auto Channel. He said the weekday lockdowns had a deleterious effect on business.
“For dealers, we lost two days out of the week (Mondays and Tuesdays) and it gave persons less time to come to the dealerships and look at the vehicles... Most people buying cars want to see the vehicles, so that had a negative impact on sales,” he said.
Hamilton said some used-car dealers had to be slashing prices significantly in order to service loans, while others had to refinance them. But they were all digging their heels in to stay afloat.
Ken Shaw — principal of used-car dealership KACS Auto Sales and Services — also welcomed the move, as the former “three-day work week” was “unproductive”.
“Now that the PM has been listening to the different groups that have been making advocacy, we should see things going back to normality. Because the banks are now opened five days, so the banks have been given an extra two days to clear cheques... Now the banks are opened five days, we'll see a great freeing up of commerce and business,” Shaw told Jamaica Observer.
“During the last four weeks of lockdowns, we had a serious problem at the banks trying to process loans and get our vehicles off, to get undertakings, and getting the banks to release the funds after the vehicles have been transferred. That is because they had this three-day window to work with...Wednesdays and Thursdays, Fridays were dead non-productive days because when you open at 9:00 am and have to send home staff by 12 noon, by the time they come to work and settle it's 10 o'clock and by 11:30 they're ready to go home. So you have an hour-and-a-half production time on a Friday which was totally negative to businesses on a whole,” he continued.
All the automotive dealers were optimistic there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but pinned it to adherence of COVID-19 protocols and vaccination take-up.
Up to 2:30 pm yesterday, a total of 679,467 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine had been administered. Of that number, 477,537 were first doses, 185,076 were second doses and 16,854 were single doses.
“Let us see in the next two or three weeks what happens. Hopefully, those who have not been adherent to previous regulations will now adhere to the regulations that have been put in place and hopefully, the numbers will start going down,” LaCroix added. “We're keeping fingers crossed that the figures go down and things return to normality as soon as possible.”
Hamilton believes the increase in vaccine take-up and the reopening of the entertainment sector will jump-start the automotive sector.
“I do believe the vaccine take-up will be better in months to come, and with the entertainment industry opening up things will look better for us,” he said.
For Shaw, COVID has taken its toll.
“With layoffs, lockdowns, it has affected even loans people are getting to buy vehicles. It's negative on businesses and the used-car sector on a whole. It will take a little while to recoup from this,” he added.