Police ‘wrong’ to stop car dealer-bound drivers
Automotive groups have called on police to be consistent when policing lockdown restrictions after reports of motorists being sent home while trying to access sales, servicing and repairs.
The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) and Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA) say drivers have been turned back in some cases as police did not deem travel to dealerships to be essential.
James Voortman, AADA chief executive, said police "have been asked to use their discretion and on a number of occasions they have been wrong".
"We've had reports from members where customers have scheduled a service, and on their way to get that service they've been stopped by police, quizzed about where they were going," he said.
"They've been told that's beyond the rules and that they should go back and go home."
FCAI president Tony Weber said "there is great uncertainty in the community about what we can and can't do".
"The police have a tough job in determining what is appropriate and not, because there is not absolute clarity in every area of business," he said.
"This applies to buying and servicing cars as it does to every other part of life.
"The rules and their interpretation are not uniform in all jurisdictions."
Toyota sales and marketing boss Sean Hanley said the company and FCAI clarified with government that vehicle sales are classified as an essential service.
"In Victorian and NSW we have actually verified that," he says.
"Our dealerships right now remain open to help keep people and businesses mobile with sales, services and repairs. These services are being delivered in a way that prioritises the health and safety of our customers and our dealership staff," he said.
An FCAI spokeswoman said motorists must be able to address safety issues including widespread Takata airbag recalls.
Authorities in Queensland, NSW and Victoria clarified that people can leave home to drive to a car dealer or workshop for maintenance.
Queensland Police said "businesses and services which have been allowed to operate are considered essential… members of the public can travel to and from essential businesses and services which have been allowed to remain open, for essential purposes only".
A NSW Police spokeswoman said "there would be no issue with people travelling to service their vehicle".
Victoria Police referred questions surrounding eligibility to the Department of Health and Human Services. A spokeswoman for the service said "people can continue to get their vehicles serviced or repaired to ensure safe travel to work and shopping for essentials".
Government bodies urged drivers to apply common sense and to stay at home unless they are required to leave for a permitted purpose such as obtaining food, essential goods or services, medical treatment, exercise and caring for family.
Originally published as Police 'wrong' to stop dealer-bound drivers