Covid-19 Resources and
Response Strategies for Dealerships

used-car-lotAs the situation surrounding Covid-19 continues to develop, we’re seeing unprecedented challenges facing businesses worldwide. The automotive industry in particular is having to quickly adapt to these challenges.

We recognize that used car dealerships are likely to be the hardest hit right now. Fortunately, there are a variety of resources and strategies available to small dealerships to help them navigate the situation.

We’ve created this page to help dealers connect with these resources; also included are tips on how to strengthen infrastructure and implement creative sales strategies to maintain customer confidence and move vehicles during this uncertain time.

dealership resources

Safety

CDC, OSHA

Keeping your customers and employees safe comes first. Remain up-to-date on proper cleaning and social distancing protocols for your dealership laid out by OSHA and the CDC.

 

Financing

SBA Loans

Small business owners in all U.S. states are currently eligible to apply for a low-interest loan due to the Coronavirus. Visit the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website for more information on these loans as well as other important resources for small business owners.

 

Compliance

DOL

The recent passing of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires private employers with fewer than 500 employees to pay up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for full-time employees affected by Covid-19. Visit the Department of Labor’s website to familiarize yourself with these new guidelines.

 

Dealership Updates

NIADA

The National Independent Automobile Dealers Association has put together a resource page that includes helpful links to legislative information affecting dealerships as well as a comprehensive list of vendor partner resources.

dealership-survive
preparing for dealership

 

Financing Options

If you’re starting to see sales slowing down, don’t panic — there are plenty of financing options out there to help you weather this crisis and come out stronger on the other side.

 

Some of the best news for small businesses in the past few weeks has been the passing of the $2 trillion stimulus package, also known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. $350 billion of this package has been earmarked for small businesses in the form of partially-forgivable loans. For independent dealerships, these loans can help maintain liquidity, avoid interruptions in payroll, and keep their operation running during the Covid-19 outbreak.

 

Most dealerships will also want to take this time to review their floor plan financing. Lower 2020 sales projections can affect your ability to cover your floor plan. With many other dealers in the same situation, be sure to contact your lender as soon as possible to see if it’s possible to negotiate your current financing terms.

 

Although it can be difficult, now is an important to take a close look at your operation’s finances to look for areas where you can save money. In addition to replacing or eliminating line-item expenses, you should also strongly consider pausing underperforming marketing channels until you can re-evaluate them at a later date.

 

Know the Law

We’re witnessing policy changes take place on an almost daily basis right now during this outbreak. That means it's crucial for you as a business owner to keep yourself appraised of your region’s laws and regulations regarding auto sales, safety, and obligations to your employees.

 

As an example, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo just allowed auto dealers to start selling cars online after they were deemed “non-essential” earlier in the crisis. These are the type of minute-by-minute updates to state and local policies that you will need to keep up-to-date with in the coming weeks.

 

Utilize sites like Fisher Phillips during this time to brush up on your knowledge of your area’s legislation regarding auto sales. A breakdown of each state’s current policies can also be found here.

 

Embrace digital retail

Previously, we talked about the importance of embracing online retail for dealerships. With customers unable to visit your lot in person, it’s more critical than ever to start exploring digital retail options for your dealership.

 

Customers across the country will be receiving $1,200 from their stimulus check soon. You need to make sure they still have the option to put that towards purchasing a vehicle from you. Establishing or updating your digital retail platform gives them the chance to still purchase that vehicle they’ve been saving for even when they can’t connect with your sales staff face-to-face.

 

Even outside of this crisis, the benefits of digital retail are clear with McKinsey Consulting estimating that 25-50% of the used car buying experience will eventually shift online. Make sure to familiarize yourself with your area’s regulations regarding online sales though since customers may still have to sign the final paperwork in person.

 

focus remarketing messagesRefocus marketing messages

Customer sensitivity is at an all time high, which means you need to reevaluate the messages you're sending out with your marketing efforts. Now more than ever, dealerships need to communicate with customers using empathy and understanding.

 

This doesn’t mean you can’t continue advertising your business, however. By placing customer safety and community solidarity at the forefront of your messaging, you’re able to strengthen customer confidence while gently reminding them about your inventory and services.

 

Remember: “less-is-more” for every business right now!

 

Strengthen your digital presence

With customers stuck at home, you have a captive audience hungry for content and connection. Right now is the perfect time to focus on strengthening your digital presence to meet your customers’ needs.

 

People are spending more time on social media than ever before right now. Use this downtime to build your social media channels by increasing your network, engaging with customers’ posts, and creating unique content to share on each platform.

 

Your website is also likely to start seeing increased traffic with people stuck indoors. Update and refine your existing website content and make sure you include information about how your dealership is handling the Coronavirus.

sales-strategy
sales strategy

The businesses that are getting the most attention at the moment are the ones finding creative and completely new ways to offer their products and services. Focus on developing sales strategies that explore this creative thinking while also planning for when business gets back to normal.

 

Promote vehicle delivery and drop-off test drives

If your customers can’t come to you then offer to come to them! 

 

Offering to deliver purchased vehicles to customers’ homes is an effective way to promote your digital retail platform. Providing drop-off test drives for customers can also be a huge win for your business. Not only does it help you make a sale, but does a lot to improve your long-term relationship with your customer by offering them a fun and safe way to get out of the house.

 

Connect and check-in with customers

Although none of us can be sure when this situation will end, it’s important to already start planning for when it does. 

 

Start by calling everyone who has purchased a vehicle from you in the past 3 years. The focus here is to check-in with them and hear how they’ve been affected. This is the perfect time for your salespeople to reconnect with these customers and make them feel supported during this difficult time. 

 

Put together a list of leads from the past 180 days

Again, the idea here is to connect with potential customers without pushing a sale on them. Contact these leads to ask how you can help support them during this time. For instance, if they’re worried about money then ask if they would be interested in a free appraisal of their current vehicle’s value. 

 

Even though you’re not making a sale right now, your sales staff will be able to collect important information while establishing relationships with bored customers stuck indoors.

 

Address customer concerns

Like the rest of us, customers are sure to have a lot of questions and concerns when it comes to their safety during this crisis. Each interaction with a customer is an opportunity for you to answer these questions and address any concerns they might have before they buy. 

 

Some examples of some common concerns a customer might have are listed below, along with the appropriate response from your sales staff to properly address it:

 

Concern: Is it safe to enter a vehicle just dropped off by one of your sales/delivery people?

 

Response: Safety is our top priority, and we are taking every precaution when it comes to delivering your new vehicle. Can I walk you through the steps we’re taking? 

 

Concern: I’m not sure now is the best time to buy a vehicle

 

Response: We understand your concern but right now we have several special offers put together to help customers get a great deal during these difficult economic times. 

 

No matter how ready a customer is to purchase a new vehicle from you, make sure your sales staff is knowledgeable and prepared to address any concerns they might have related to Covid-19.

get-back-stronger

small businessesThe Covid-19 outbreak is presenting new challenges to small businesses across the country, not just dealerships. Keep in mind that, although it might be difficult, it can also be an opportunity to strengthen your image and relationship with customers and the community. There will be plenty of lessons to learn that you and your staff can utilize after the crisis ends.

 

In the meantime, we’re here to support you. As the situation continues to develop, keep checking back for more updates and reach out to us to let us know how we can help.