‘IT’S HARD TO GET A HANDLE ON IT’ Paul Gannon believes Brexit could have a bigger impact on the motor trade than the pandemic.
Gannon’s Garage in Westport optimistic for near term, but Brexit’s impact looms large
WHEN a person’s business has been hit by both the pandemic and the uncertainty of what Brexit might bring, pessimism would be forgiven.
And Paul Gannon of Gannon’s Garage in Westport had a very pessimistic outlook 12 months ago, when the coronavirus first reached our shores and put the country under lockdown.
“When all this started last year I thought ‘Jesus, I won’t sell a car for the rest of the year’. But it was actually the opposite,” he told The Mayo News.
“Lockdown was quiet, but once it lifted it was busy, and I would be expecting the same again when things calm down again. I would be very optimistic about the next couple of months. It is going to be very busy because there is going to be a lot of disposable income.”
‘No tyre kickers’
The second lockdown has meant that people are no longer free to browse the car lots. As a result, car sales have all gone online. While sales are down as expected, Paul said they are not as bad as he feared. People are now happier to buy based on what they see on his website.
“I have noticed that if people are thinking of changing they are changing and they aren’t wasting their time. There are no tyre kickers anymore. If they are serious about changing the car they look online and do a deal over the phone.
“They have their homework done. They have seen the car online or in the newspaper and they have seen the pictures and videos of it. If it is a fairly fresh car they would not be taking too much of a chance on it anyway. The second-hand trade is quite good and I have to say I was very surprised by that,” he explained.
Located on the road to Croagh Patrick, Gannon’s Garage has been in business for over 50 years. The business also includes a car repair garage and a petrol and diesel forecourt. Unlike the first lockdown, the repairs side of the business is open and ‘holding up fine’. The sale of petrol and diesel is down, however.
“We don’t have the passing trade, and we don’t have the tourists and the day trippers climbing Croagh Patrick. There aren’t as many people going to work, so they won’t need as much petrol and diesel.”
Online sales up
Gannon’s Garage has approximately 40 second-hand cars for sale at the moment. With his customers traditionally from around the west Mayo region, Paul says the travel restrictions have not affected him as much as it might have other dealerships. And with online sales increasing, Gannon’s has had to upgrade their website to show off their cars.
While he looks forward to the end of the lockdown and an increase in sales, he shares the concern held by many the motor trade: that Brexit and its impact on vehicle imports might mean demand for second-hand cars cannot be met.
“You just don’t know when you buy a car in England how much it will cost you until you have it cleared and number plates on it. Before you’d know how much it would cost to get it over and how much the VRT would be, but now there are new tariffs; it is hard to price it at the moment. It is still up in the air,” he said.
Paul has not brought in any cars from England since the start of the year. He’s content with the current supply in Ireland – but he’s worried about how it will pan out later in the year.
“I have been asking others in the trade, and it is the same story with Brexit. It is hard to get a handle on it at the moment. That is going to drive up the price of second-hand cars here and I’ve seen that already. The same car I bought last year is costing me more this year; it is amazing how they have gone up in the last six months.
“I think it is going to be busy once this lockdown is over, but the biggest fear is whether we will have the cars to supply the demand. Commercial vans have gone awful scarce. Where once you have two lads sharing a van going to work, now they cannot do that because of Covid.
“At the minute I am okay because I have contacts built up over the years, and I have a good selection and plenty to be going on with for the next couple of months. But come September time when trade picks up again it could be a different story.”