Robert Forrester, Daksh Gupta, Mike Hawes and Sue Robinson have all criticised the lockdown measures to be introduced on Thursday. The lockdown will force auto retailer showrooms to close.

Mr Forrester, CEO of franchised retail group Vertu, warned that some businesses will be in the balance on the decision. “I suspect this disruption won’t end on 2 December, so big decisions need to be made.” He stressed retailers will remain open for home delivers and click and collect.

Mr Gupta,  Group CEO of Marshall Motor Group, questioned why garden centres can remain open when car showrooms cannot. He argues car showrooms have more space and fewer visitors. “This is an £82bn industry that employs over 800,000 people!”

Mr Hawes, Chief Executive of the SMMT, stressed that automotive manufacturing “must have its showrooms open. It is proven safe and secure, a very different environment to other retail premises”. Wider job losses must be prevented, he added.

NFDA chief executive Sue Robinson said there is “no evidence” that keeping showrooms open would increase transmission of the virus. “Our dealerships have not caused Covid-19 to spread over the past five months, nor are they causing it to spread today.

“The German government, while imposing a lockdown, has decided to keep vehicle dealerships open [see below]. We would like the British government to show the same good judgement.”

The IMDA also reminds retailers that while distance selling remains open, it will be classified as a distance sale and a 14-day no-quibble return must be offered, or retailers risk “customers potentially cancelling and handing vehicles back up to 12 months later”.