TORONTO – Ontario dealers are being warned to no longer offer test drives, including those conducted at customers’ homes, or risk being in contravention of the province’s most recent COVID-19 Emergency Order released on April 3.
Dealers who continue to offer them will be subject to administrative action up to and including a proposal to revoke registration, said spokesman Terry O’Keefe, spokesman for the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC)
“Failing to comply with the province’s Emergency Order may result in administrative action by OMVIC, ranging from a discipline hearing to the issuance of a proposal to revoke registration,” O’Keefe told Automotive News Canada. “Since dealers were ordered closed by Ontario’s Emergency Order [except for online sales], it is OMVIC’s opinion that taking a vehicle to a customer’s home for the purpose of a test drive violates the Emergency Order and its intention to protect the health of all Ontarians and lessen the spread of Covid-19.”
Ontario’s most recent order also declared dealer showrooms to be non-essential businesses and forced them to close. O’Keefe says that violating the order in any capacity would be viewed as being in violation of its Code of Ethics.
“Ontario’s Emergency Order is in place to save lives – ignoring it, or seeking ‘work arounds’, is illegal and/or unethical,” he said. “The [Motor Vehicle Dealers Act] requires dealers to conduct themselves with honesty, integrity and in accordance with the law, and the Code of Ethics requires registrants not engage in any act or omission that, having regard to all of the circumstances, would reasonably be regarded as disgraceful, dishonourable, unprofessional or unbecoming of a registrant.
“OMVIC is confident the vast majority of registrants agree that protecting Ontarians must be our number priority.”
The Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, which represents more than 1,000 new-vehicle dealers across the province, supports OMVIC’s position, said Frank Notte, director of government relations.
“We are in lockstep with OMVIC that test drives should not be undertaken,” Notte said. “Our legal analysis of the Emergency Order also does not permit test drives at this time. Furthermore, test drives are not conducive to social distancing, which is a top directive from all public health organizations and governments as the world fights COVID-19.”
OMVIC suggests that dealers include cancellation clauses in sales contracts while customers are unable to assess vehicles with test drives, said O’Keefe.
“To help protect consumers and to ensure confidence and trust in the online purchase process, OMVIC encourages dealers to provide remote customers with a contract cancellation period,” O’Keefe said.