From increased sanitizing and cleaning to maintaining social distancing, auto dealerships are doing everything they can to keep their customers, employees and communities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to following CDC guidelines, many are going above and beyond and are coming up with creative ways to give back and strengthen the communities they serve in a time of unprecedented need. Here are five ways auto dealers have changed the way they are doing business and helping their communities.
Adapting Delivery and Service
Cars, trucks and the dealerships that sell and service them are critical to ensuring that the necessary medical and household supplies reach their destinations and the nation’s essential workers are mobile. To keep customers and employees safe, many dealerships are expanding their pickup and delivery for servicing. In fact, pickup and delivery for servicing is one of the most common adaptations dealerships are making, according to NADA’s Dealer Survey for the week of March 16. Many dealerships already offered this service option, but there’s been an uptick, dealers across the country said.
Encouraging Online Alternatives
The vast majority of dealerships have a robust online presence, but in the age of social distancing, those online tools have become more important than ever to customers. “We are communicating to our customers we are open for business and we are reminding them there are multiple ways to communicate,” said one dealer. “Whether it is a phone call, email or text, we are able to respond to their needs. If they require parts, we will deliver if necessary. If they require service, we will pick up and deliver. The night drop is available 24-hours a day and we will be checking it constantly. Regarding sales, we are offering remote delivery, YouTube custom presentations, and electronic signings in an open air yet private environment.”
Another dealer responded, “We are pushing online purchasing as well as offering concierge delivery or test drives.” Similarly, an East Coast dealer said, “We are instituting a new marketing plan focused on shopping from home.”
While Congress recently passed and the president signed into law an emergency aid package aimed at helping employees impacted by the coronavirus, those benefits are still a few weeks off. In the meantime, some dealerships have stepped up to help their employees during the pandemic. “We have implemented an ‘Emergency Supplemental Paid Time Off’ policy,” said a dealer. “We are giving employees (non-managers) 10 days of ES-PTO at 75% of their pay rate (not to be less than minimum wage) to deal with any COVID-19 issues (has symptoms, caring for a family member, dealing with childcare issues, etc). Also, we are being more flexible with everyone’s work hours to help deal with childcare and schooling issues.”
Supporting Local Businesses
Dealerships are making a conscious effort to support local businesses, especially restaurants which have been particularly hard hit by restrictions and shelter-in-place orders. A dealer from the South, for example, said that in addition bringing in lunch for the staff every day, they’ve been leaving local businesses five-star reviews online.
Another dealer in the West said they were working with a local ethanol producer to make their own hand sanitizer out of glycerin and ethanol. “Once we get it made, our plan is to distribute it free to walk-in customers,” the anonymous respondent said.
Helping At-Risk Groups
It’s been widely reported that seniors are at the greatest risk of contracting the coronavirus and as a result, many of them are self-isolating. One dealer from the Midwest told NADA that, “For a limited time we are offering a free oil change and tire rotation to our senior customers. We are picking up customers cars at their homes and at work for their service work and then returning the vehicles to them.”