March 31, 2020

Why Dealerships Should Be Classified as an Essential Business During the COVID-19 Crisis

By Kimberly Vo, Customer Training Manager

As the COVID-19 situation continues to develop daily, auto dealerships are faced with potentially being forced to shut down due to being labeled as a non-essential business. During this time, people need to use their vehicles for essential activities such as going to work at an essential business, getting groceries for their family, and going to the doctor or pharmacy for medicine. So what happens when people get into an accident that totals their car or their vehicle has trouble starting? Dealerships should be an essential business because they help provide the people with the essentials they need during this fragile time.

Dealerships should be allowed to stay open while following the CDC guidelines of social distancing. Many dealerships around the nation are only allowing call-in appointments to ensure the safety of employees and customers, online purchasing options, and providing delivery to the door. There are even some dealerships that offer to drop off the vehicle at the customer’s house for a test drive while following the sanitary guidelines to ensure the safety of the customer. During this time, people are ordering items online, and auto dealers can do the same by offering several digital retailing tools on their website and offering telecommunication to their customers.

Urgent need for vehicles

A vehicle could stop working at any time, and sometimes the older vehicles may cost too much to repair. Dealerships offer leases and financing to help people get through this time. If a car breaks down or an essential worker gets into an accident that completely totals their vehicle, how will they get to work? Public transportation and taking rideshares in this time are unsafe. 

Families go to grocery stores to provide food for their household and they need a safe and personal vehicle in order to accomplish these goals. If a family member or a person needs their medication from the doctor, they will need a vehicle to get from one point to another. Using rideshare apps are unsafe during the COVID-19 times, and people during this time should be with others that are in their household and avoid being exposed to others.

During this time, dealerships are offering a variety of incentives to help families that need an affordable car. Many OEMs are providing payment deferrals or low to no interest rates for a number of months, which could be of great help to those who are in need of a vehicle. This goes hand-in-hand with those who typically take public transportation or use ridesharing apps and have been looking for vehicles, but did not have the means to. 

Lease turn-in

Many people are finishing up the lease of their vehicle and may need to turn in their lease to get another vehicle. To turn in the lease and get a new vehicle, dealerships need to be open. Vehicles need to be inspected and turned in and to lease or finance a new vehicle the dealerships need to remain open. Those who have leased a vehicle need to take care of essential activities that include going grocery shopping and to and from the hospital or pharmacy. Dealerships can work with customers by providing appointment-only access to the dealership to turn in a lease and receive a new vehicle by implementing a system of allowing customers to test drive and purchase a vehicle from the comfort of their home.

Keeping safe

If your showroom remains open, it is of utmost importance that your dealership follows the CDC guidelines for social distancing and providing specific protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Ensure that there is a limit to how many people there are in the showroom and workspaces along with providing hand sanitizer in public areas. Your bathrooms should be regularly cleaned and filled with antibacterial hand soap. Public spaces and surfaces should be sanitized often. If there are any employees with underlying illnesses, it is crucial to ensure that they stay home. 

To counter the closures and keep both employees and customers safe, auto dealers should be able to stay open with some restrictions. Now is the time to take advantage of digital retailing tools and using the telephone to communicate with potential customers. Your website should include credit applications, financing tools to view payment plans, and a messaging system. With these tools, it provides all the possible opportunities for your customers to have several options to complete their entire car-buying process online. Some dealerships are offering to bring a test drive to the customers’ house and ensuring safety protocols. These options provide safe and secure methods of purchasing a new vehicle from the comfort of the buyer’s home. 

Many states and local municipalities have different restrictions with automotive sales. If your dealership is not sure of the rules and regulations, contact your state’s automotive dealer association or your local county offices. We also have a map updated daily with all the types of restrictions according to each state and county.

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