What are the consequences of the corona crisis on garages and drivers?

14. Apr 2020 | Industry + More

To curtail the spread of coronavirus, people in Germany are currently obliged to restrict contact with others to the absolute minimum. Many retail outlets and hospitality businesses are shut, and numerous international borders within the EU have been closed. The corona crisis also has an effect on car drivers and the automotive industry. But caution is advised here: Remember the motto "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" – other states may handle situations very differently, particularly in the age of Covid-19.

Unlike in other countries, we can still move about more or less freely in Germany because there are no bans on going out. But the roads are much less busy than usual – most people are adhering to social distancing or the restrictions on leaving home: The ADAC is talking about traffic jams on German motorways being reduced by a hefty two thirds. Vehicle insurers are reporting far fewer claims because there are now fewer accidents.

Impact on garages

So bringing us to the subject of garages. Although workshops are still permitted to do business – unlike car dealerships – most are reporting far fewer customers to some degree. Only essential repairs can be carried out in German states subject to restrictions on leaving home, e.g. Bavaria. These restrictions are also affecting businesses responsible for changing tyres, who would normally be doing a roaring trade in spring. Especially in Bavaria. There the Ministry of Health clearly takes a somewhat exclusive view of the issue of vehicle safety. The ministry recently made it clear that "having your tyres changed is not a valid reason for leaving home". The same applies to washing your car. Car washes may well still be open in some places, but in regions with restrictions on going out, car washing is not a good reason to leave home. Drivers should ideally find out about the local regulations applicable.

A good deal of discussion has also gone on regarding the issue of the general inspection for vehicles. “In principle, this inspection is absolutely essential: It is an official obligation in order to maintain road safety,” stated the ADAC, the German automobile association Normally vehicle owners are liable to be fined if they exceed having a general inspection done by more than two months. However, the Federal Ministry of Transport has recommended that the relevant police authorities extend the deadline to four months. These regulations may nonetheless vary depending on which of Germany's federal states is involved.

The situation with the vehicle registration authorities is somewhat different, as more and more of them have now closed for business. Many however offer telephone appointments.

Hygiene is the top priority

Petrol stations, on the other hand, come under the category of "essential businesses" and are normally staying open throughout Germany. Good news for drivers: In March the price of fuel hit a record low. Despite their delight over falling fuel prices, drivers should still pay attention to hygiene. For example, using the disposable gloves available at petrol stations when filling up, maintaining social distancing when entering the shop area and preferably paying with an EC card.

In the age of Covid-19 hygiene is the key issue in any case. This also applies to cars. All surfaces which are touched by passengers and can be contaminated by coughing or sneezing should be cleaned at regular intervals. This in particular means the steering wheel, dashboard, gearstick knob, indicator and handbrake lever and touchscreen, as well as switches and door handles.

So what's next?

This is surely a question that isn't just confronting garages. It's also the one that is most difficult to answer at the moment. What's certain here is that the pandemic has only just begun, and we all need to accept we're in it for the long haul. Holding together is more important than ever before, and we wish you strength and staying power during this challenging time.