Melbourne’s ban on logbook servicing has come under fire.
Faced with the prospect of another six weeks under strict lockdowns, dealers and workshops in the Melbourne Metro area are calling for a more nuanced approach to restrictions preventing them from carrying out scheduled logbook servicing.
Only essential vehicle maintenance is allowed under the Stage 4 lockdown which came into force on August 2 in Metropolitan Melbourne, and will continue in some form until at least October 26.
Dealers and workshops are currently allowed to support a permitted industry or service, or to carry out work required to maintain the health and safety of Victorians, such as repairs, vehicle disinfection, or recalls.
In other words, if something is broken on your car you can have it fixed. But preventative maintenance, and annual checks designed to ascertain if there are problems hidden beneath the surface aren’t allowed.
Missed services could mean owners are driving around in damaged cars – or causing their vehicles damage because of missed or heavily-delayed oil changes, software updates, and safety checks.
Motorists won’t be allowed to take their cars for a scheduled service until October 26 at the earliest under the roadmap laid out by Premier Daniel Andrews, when Victoria plans to move away from Stage 4 restrictions.
The VACC is concerned, however, if Victoria doesn’t meet the strict COVID case criteria for reopening it could be November or even December before scheduled maintenance is allowed.
Motorists are also at risk of voiding their warranties and excluding themselves from capped-price service promises if they stray too far from the prescribed maintenance schedule.
“Effectively what we would have is a car fleet in Victoria that hasn’t had scheduled servicing for six months,” Geoff Gwilym, Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC) CEO, told CarExpert.
“The bottleneck [of cars needing maintenance] will be huge, and will probably take three months to clear. What do you do with a vehicle that’s nine months out of its scheduled servicing, what does the warranty mean?” he said.
Mr Gwilym said the risk of a customer or staff member spreading Coronavirus is low compared to industries such as construction and manufacturing, which have been given the green light to resume some operations on September 28.
“How come I can run a building site, but I can’t service my car,” he said.
“Workshops are generally large areas with very low numbers of people, with wind blowing through. They’re about as safe as you can get.
“This isn’t a group of people bunched up in an office coughing and sneezing on each other, it’s people in wide open spaces inside a workshop.”
A Victorian Government spokesperson said, “We’re consulting with the industry on timelines for businesses to safely reopen for vehicle servicing and log book maintenance.”
The government says it has consulted with the VACC and Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association multiple times since the beginning of August, inviting the VACC to nine industry roundtables.
The impact of Stage 4 lockdowns on Victoria’s automotive industry is clear in the VFACTS sales data for August. Just 8437 new cars were sold in Victoria, a 65.9 per cent decline compared to the same month in 2019.
New South Wales and Queensland, both of which are essentially open for business, recorded 16.3 per cent and 14.1 per cent drops respectively, while the Australian Capital Territory grew sales incrementally.
CarExpert has contacted a number of carmakers to see how they will support Victorian owners unable to have their cars serviced, and will include their responses in a separate story.