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THE Andrews government in Victoria has finally reversed its hard line against the public in Melbourne getting their cars serviced under the tough Covid-19 Stage Four lockdown regulations which stopped owners from presenting their vehicles at service centres across the city.

The regulation brought service operations across Melbourne to a virtual halt and angered the repair industry which, while supporting measures designed to inhibit the spread of the pandemic, was shocked to find that people could drop off their dog for grooming but not their car for service.

The government has now relented and any vehicle, be it for a permitted industry or a member of the public, can now have a routine service or scheduled service performed.

The change of heart came after a sustained campaign by the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC) calling for common sense to prevail.

The  chamber said it “welcomes the news that Stage Four restrictions pertaining to logbook and scheduled vehicle servicing have been eased, after a long and collaborative discussion with the Victorian Government”.

Ever since the Stage Four restrictions came into force, the VACC and other industry groups have presented a case that the service industry was capable of meeting Covid-safe service arrangements.

The VACC also presented Spring Street with compelling data that in car dealership service departments alone, not including the myriad independent service workshops across Melbourne, 250,000 cars had missed their required service and maintenance and the number was heading for 500,000 if the regulation stayed in place.

Daniel Andrews

The fear was that the backlog of cars not maintained would be so large that the service industry would never catch up. This backlog had implications for vehicle warranties and insurance undertakings, for the successful completion of the ongoing recall of deadly Takata airbags and for road safety.

Geoff Gwilym, the CEO of the VACC, said in a statement: “VACC has been in constant dialogue with the Victorian government and is pleased that the government has listened to our reasoned arguments and put the safety of motorists first.”

Previously under Stage Four conditions, motorists living in the metro Melbourne area were not permitted to book routine servicing (logbook or scheduled maintenance) for their vehicles as a standalone service.

Additional service work to a vehicle was only lawful when urgent vehicle repairs were being undertaken – in those cases, maintenance and servicing could then be completed at the same time, to keep the vehicle roadworthy. As a result, many metro Melbourne motorists were left vulnerable.

Geoff Gwilym

“VACC research indicates that Victorian new car dealers saw an 81.1 per cent drop in vehicles presented for service between June and August. This, when factoring in motorcycles and trucks, could have led to half a million vehicles missing their regular service ‘window’ by December – if the government had not listened to industry feedback and insight.

“Critical repairs may have been missed. This is not only dangerous but would have produced a backlog that was unlikely to be cleared in time for the end-of-year holiday period,” Mr Gwilym said.

He said that the automotive industry was once again ready to safely provide their services to metro Melbourne motorists .

He said auto business owners have adapted quickly to adhere to government Covid-19 safety advice, with many businesses adopting a contactless service model and implementing options such as key drop-off box facilities, contactless payment (‘tap and go’, online banking or over the phone payments), emailing of invoices and work authorisation via SMS or email.

“VACC applauds the government’s move to review the servicing restriction placed on motorists and the automotive industry and continues to support decisions made to protect the safety of all Victorians.

“The servicing announcement reflects the government’s commitment to maintaining motorist safety and recognises the essential role that the automotive industry plays in the community and the economy.”

By John Mellor

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