The auto industry has been surging toward pre-pandemic sales levels since the economy began reopening in May. The number of coronavirus cases continues to climb, though, with some states tightening up restrictions once again. California has re-imposed many previous restrictions after the number of cases spiked, and medical experts are urging authorities to dial back re-opening strategies until COVID-19 cases are under control.

When the initial outbreak hit the United States, auto sales plummeted to historically low levels with auto sales not classified as essential business initially. A swift recovery occurred when that designation was made. Whether the economy is tightened up again or not, the auto industry shouldn’t suffer the same level of detriment as it did the first time around. 

Shoppers Will Be Buying

During the initial recovery phase, car shoppers emerged to fulfill their vehicle needs. Some required replacements for a total loss in an accident. Others needed a new vehicle for a life-changing event like retirement or layoff, including downgrades. And many were lessees who needed to turn in their car and get a different one.

Americans are learning how to safely shop despite the presence of a pandemic, and that can be expected to continue even if the economy tightens up again. Shoppers of all types – whether needs-based or simply due to the desire for a new car – will continue to buy cars. All aspects of the auto industry are surprisingly resilient

Safety is Paramountpandemic

Two in three people are concerned about safety in returning to work, according to a survey of 2,000 Americans by Qualtrics. 47 percent want masks to be required while 45 percent want hugs and handshakes at work to be forbidden by policy at this time. Nearly three-quarters want to be reassured that their workplace has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Customers demand an even higher standard of safety. Available masks, enforced social distancing, and limited exposure are just a few strategies that dealerships should keep in place to help customers feel comfortable returning to buy a car or have theirs serviced.

As an example, Ford Quick Lane is limiting physical contact, ensuring staff wear gloves when handling customer vehicles, and handing off keys in a bag.

However, an even higher degree of safety is available as dealers and manufacturers have implemented virtual and remote methods for doing business during the pandemic recovery.

Related: As CVS and Walmart Make Masks Mandatory, Should Dealers Follow Suit?

Tools are Available

Many manufacturers are ensuring safety to help customers feel comfortable by remote means.

Jaguar-Land Rover is offering owners an Uber ride rather than riding in a tow truck if they require roadside assistance. Infiniti provides at-home test drives from a local retailer through their Infiniti Now program as well as service pickup and delivery services.

The manufacturer with perhaps the most comprehensive safety for both in-person and remote service is Volvo. Long known for their commitment to safety, Volvo has developed a range of tools for customers.

  • Volvo’s virtual showroom lets shoppers find the right model with walkarounds for all their models online. 
  • A concierge is available to chat live about options, features, and so on. 
  • Volvo Valet is offered for all Volvo owners for app-based service pickup and delivery that includes cleaning upon return. 
  • And Volvo stores are enhancing in-person shopping safety with specialized disinfection processes, clear signage, hands-free door openers, and barriers. 

What Dealers Should Do

Car shoppers will still be in the market for vehicles, even as restrictions come back into force across several states. Dealers should be promoting the positive message that they’re continuing to keep customers safe with in-dealership cleaning and social distancing. And if remote sales have not yet been embraced by the dealership team, now is a great time to implement the process and train staff how to use it well.


Did you enjoy this article from Jason Unrau? Read other articles from him here.

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