Our lives have been deeply impacted and overwhelmed by COVID-19, also known as the Coronavirus. Restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and thousands of other businesses have been affected. So, what is going on with car dealerships?
We have some amazing dealers all over the country and I talk to many of them often, especially since the Coronavirus threat started. One thing people outside the industry don’t seem to understand: Car dealers are the most resilient group of businesspeople in America.
Talking to them, I was astounded at the lengths all the dealers were going to in order to make sure their dealerships are germ-free for their customers and employees. No expense is being spared, and many have hired extra personnel to wipe surfaces down with disinfectant. All of them have trained their staff on the Centers for Disease Control publications to spot the early signs of the disease.
Other dealers told me they kept people at the entrances so customers did not have to touch door handles. They told me about all the hand sanitizer they purchased. They told me about everyone carrying wipes to clean the steering wheels, gear shifters, and key fobs before a customer test drives a car.
The biggest transformation I have seen the past couple of weeks is dealers willing to do a complete vehicle purchase, including delivery and paperwork, without ever having to step foot in the dealership. Some have been doing this for some time, others have recently adopted this and have trained employees extensively.
This is a huge departure from years past. Until recently, if you contacted a dealership by email, the entire goal was to convince you to come into the dealership. Frankly, this gave the dealership an advantage. Now the dealers understand that they must answer every question and disclose every number with complete transparency. They are also finding out that people appreciate that. Some want to come in to finalize, some want delivery at their home or office.
Understand, too, that many car dealers are not embracing this “whatever it takes” mentality. Some are unwilling to change, but I am thankful for the group of dealers we have assembled on the Car Pro Show.
Timing-wise, the incentives are incredible right now. We’ve seen movement from almost all the automakers, some going as far as offering 0% APR for 84 months. We are in unchartered waters here, but I expect incentives to stay strong until this health crisis has subsided. From there, best guess is the incentives will drop because many automakers have suspended building vehicles.
Bottom line here: people are still buying cars, albeit differently. Car dealers-all of them-track everything. I have been amazed that most I talked to are even with the same day in March 2019, some are ahead for the month. There are many reasons, but one of the main ones is they are willing to do whatever it takes to sell a vehicle.
The Coronavirus is serious and should not be taken lightly. However, I believe in Americans and their determination to survive and overcome. The love affair with cars, trucks, and SUVs is a strong motivator, and savvy people understand that in times like this, it is a buyer’s market and there are real bargains to be had. If you have a trade-in, cars at auction this week were still bringing way more than book value.
If you are reading this, you are probably a listener of the show, a newsletter subscriber, or a facebook follower. Please follow the guidelines set forth by the CDC. Most of all, please encourage our youth to follow the guidelines. It is the young ones who don’t see the danger, and who do not want their lives disrupted. These are the people who could continue the spread of the disease.
For the first time, I will publicly let it be known that I recently discovered I have an illness that puts me in the highest risk category for COVID-19. Bad timing, for sure. That said, I will carry on with the show, the reviews, and the newsletter. It’s what I do.
This shall pass, and in my opinion, the economy will rebound even stronger than before. America has been challenged many times through the years and the American spirit is undeniable.
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