PA car dealer David Kelleher on reacting quickly to stay ahead of COVID-19

David Kelleher

Dealers across the nation have dealt with highs and lows in their daily operations since the start of the pandemic. The pandemic has truly had an effect industry-wide. Today, we’re checking in with David Kelleher, President of David Auto Group, who was also among four dealer nominee finalists for Time’s 2020 Dealer of the Year award. We’ll be discussing his dealership structure and also how his group has adapted to a digital environment.

While business has been booming as of late, the start of the pandemic was touch-and-go. The state of Pennsylvania was shut down completely around April 20, when car dealers were abruptly told that they had to close their doors. However, Kelleher was no stranger to economic uncertainty. He bought his store only three years before the great recession and questioned whether he had the experience and stamina to get through it. He got through the recession successfully and applied the same strategies to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He started by immediately furloughing 90% of his staff. Reacting quickly was very important according to Kelleher. By May, his dealership has the infrastructure in place to start selling cars online. The six weeks the dealership was down, were spent preparing for the uptick in online vehicle transactions.

Kelleher says, “In May, with our doors locked, we sold 219 cars. Which was really a study. We did it all virtually, and we delivered cars to everybody’s homes.”

Prior to opening David Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram, Kelleher worked in a few different dealerships in Pennsylvania and New Jersey before buying into a struggling store. He took the dealership from selling 46 cars per month to 126 per month. With the help of Chrysler, he bought David DCJR in 2005. Kelleher is also active in the Auto Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia, having served as its president in 2017 and 2018.

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