South Africa’s government has officially permitted the sale of new and used cars under Level 4 of the COVID-19 lockdown, under strict conditions.

Trade, industry and competition minister Ebrahim Patel shared the new rules, which were published in the government gazette.

Under Level 4, the trade in new and used cars; the wholesale trade of new and used cars by OEMs and importers; the export and import of all category of cars through national ports of entry “under strict guidelines”; and trade-in purchases, car lease scheme returns and wholesale trading of used cars, is again permitted.

Various “administrative and other functionaries”, such as roadworthy assessment and testing centres, and other testing stations, are also allowed to be operational.

The regulations say car sales are now allowed under the following conditions, in phase one:

- All dealerships and used car outlets will operate with up to 30 percent of employment subject to a maximum of one employee or customer per every nine (nine) square metres of floor space (provided that small businesses may operate with a minimum of five employees).

- The majority of car sales will be done remotely via the internet or eCommerce or telephone. Personal contact will be kept to a minimum and only on appointment under very strict hygiene and social distancing conditions in line with the regulations.

- Test drives will be conducted by appointment only.

- Home delivery of vehicles with full sanitisation will be mandatory.

- Where possible, electronic or virtual signatures will be used for finance and insurance documentation.

- Car auctions for all categories will be conducted online in compliance with the CPA Regulations.

In phase two, dealerships will be allowed to operate with up to 60 percent of staff, with “limited customers” allowed to enter under “very strict hygiene and social distancing conditions”. Under this second phase, test drives will also be possible, along with on-site pick-ups of vehicles.

Phase three, which kicks in from 8 June 2020 and lasts until Level 4 is lifted, will see “all dealerships and used car outlets” operate with up to 100 percent of employment. Here, customer on-site contact will be allowed but “kept to a minimum”.

All dealerships and used car outlets must furthermore implement a “mandatory signing of a register by all visitors and customers” and not permit children access to the site under Level 4.

What about maintenance and repairs? Well, these will be allowed by appointment only, with “unsolicited walk-ins” permitted only under “exceptional and emergency circumstances” with a full record of each such instance kept in writing at the premises of the business for a period of three months after the state of disaster has been lifted. “Cosmetic repairs”, such as minor scratches and dents or cosmetic enhancements, will not be permitted.